An Interview with Alex Williamson (Chief Brand Officer at Bumble)
Business Today (Hannah Pouler): As Chief Brand Officer at Bumble, what does your job entail?
Alex Williamson: I oversee a few teams at Bumble, including our talented creative team. In the early days of Bumble, I was hired by our Founder and CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd, as a three-month contract employee to help Bumble launch in Dallas, Texas. Three weeks into my role, I was managing Bumble’s social media and produced all of the brand content, which allowed me to channel my passion for content creation. I still love writing creative brand and product copy and brainstorming with my team. I also manage our community operations team as well as our editorial team, which allows me to stay very close to the needs of our users and the trends that are influencing our culture and business.
BT: What does the average day at work look like for you, and what does the not-so-average day look like? What are some challenges you’ve had to face?
AW: Every day is so different! In the office, I work closely with the teams that I oversee to make sure we are creating a brand experience that resonates with our existing and potential users. When I’m not at the office, I’m often traveling to speak at events and conferences on behalf of Bumble. As a fun example of a not-so-average day at work, I recently got ordained to marry a couple who met on Bumble in Vancouver!
BT: Your office is mostly women - how does this affect your work environment? Can you describe the workplace culture of the Hive?
AW: Our team is actually 85% women with a majority female C-suite. As a female-founded and female-led company, we see this as an opportunity to redefine corporate culture. This includes special focus on flexibility, support for working moms, and a culture that puts collaboration over internal competition.
BT: Bumble has “changed the game” in the online dating world, giving more agency to women by encouraging them to make the first move. What was the thinking behind this strategy?
AW: Our founder and CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd, saw the need for change in the antiquated rules of dating, which is why she created a platform where women make the first move, which shakes up our society’s traditional gender norms. When we first launched in 2014, there was a lot of skepticism around the format of our app. Four years later, we’ve seen incredible growth to over 40 million users in 160 countries.
BT: The “women make the first move” policy is less clear for gay men and women. Who would message first in these situations? How does the Bumble app support the queer community?
AW: For heterosexual matches in Bumble Date, the woman has 24 hours to make the first move and the man has 24 hours to respond. In same sex matches, either person has 24 hours to make the first move and 24 hours to respond before the connection expires. Bumble was created with equality in mind and that includes people of all genders and orientations. We want the LGBTQ community to know Bumble is a safe, respectful network, rooted in kindness and respect for everybody. This year, we celebrated the LGBTQ community during Pride Month all across the nation in major cities including Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Washington D.C., San Francisco and more. Participating in Pride Month was not the first time Bumble has engaged with the LGBTQ community; we’ve connected with amazing influencers in the community through sponsoring Dinah Shore Weekend ‘girl party’ in Palm Springs in the past. Our LGBTQ users are at the heart of what we do; we want to get to meet as many of them as we can face to face!
BT: Online dating is often perceived as unsafe. How does Bumble manage privacy and safety on its platform? Do Bumble users feel safe using the app?
AW: At Bumble, we have our user’s backs. We’ve worked so hard to create a safe, kind and empowering platform and community. We partnered with the Anti-Defamation League in August 2017 to ban hate speech from our app, and we employ over 5,000 moderators across the globe who proactively ensure that our community is adhering to our guidelines. We have a zero-tolerance approach to abuse or harassment on our app and we continue to innovate with our user’s safety in mind - examples of that include photo verification and a robust block and report system.
BT: Can you talk about the launch of Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF? How are these new programs changing the industry of dating apps?
AW: The launch of Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF was inspired by our users, who were hacking Bumble Date to find friends and to network. We listen closely to user feedback, and we saw that our users wanted more opportunities to connect with the people around them - and not just in dating. Users indicated on their profile, “I’m just looking to network,” or “Not here to date! Just looking for a friend.” We are the first dating app to evolve into a social networking app, and even with that change, we are still able to remain committed to the “women first” approach we take to helping our users find empowering connections, whether that’s love, friendship or networking. Our users who are married and in relationships can hide Bumble Date from their app — and it is time stamped for accountability! — so they can use Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF without any concerns about being “on a dating app”.
BT: What do you envision for the future of dating apps, perhaps 25 years from now?
AW: Bumble is on a mission to hold people accountable for their actions online, and it’s important for us to provide a platform and build a community that fosters equality, kindness and a safe space to make empowered connections. We hope 25 years from now, that this is the norm for dating apps and that we can help create a kinder internet by building an infrastructure on our platform that encourages people to be respectful of one another.
BT: From a broader standpoint, what do you see as the future of women in business? How is Bumble making strides towards that future?
AW: Women in business have come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go. One of the areas where that’s most apparent is in the amount of women who receive venture capital funding, which is why we’ve recently launched the Bumble Fund. The stats on venture funding for women is staggeringly low - female entrepreneurs only get 2% of venture funding. For black, Latinx, and other women from underrepresented groups, the number drops lower. Bumble Fund is an initiative to help those women largely ignored by the existing venture capital establishments, and we’re excited that our investments have already had a real impact on women in business today.