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Inside Bumble's next phase of growth

With an increasing focus on global markets, Bumble Inc's flagship dating app is experimenting big time with artificial intelligence and machine learning

Naini Thaker
Published: Jul 3, 2023 12:35:34 PM IST
Updated: Jul 4, 2023 09:21:34 AM IST

Inside Bumble's next phase of growthFor Q1 2023, Bumble Inc. reported a revenue of $242.9 million, which was 16 percent higher as compared to last year; Image: Shutterstock

Early in my career, I was the target of online abuse and harassment. I lived in a perpetual state of anxiety; the internet felt like the Wild West, dangerous and toxic. I knew there had to be a better way: A kinder, more respectful internet,” Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of Bumble Inc wrote in an exclusive blog for Forbes India in March. With that as the founding principle, Herd started Bumble in 2014, with a four member team and a two-bedroom apartment.

From a mere dating application, Herd formed Bumble Inc, took it to a blockbuster initial public offering (IPO) in 2021 and is now expanding the business globally. With innovation, particularly with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and new acquisitions, Bumble Inc continues to grow deeper, not just with their flagship dating app Bumble, but also sister applications Badoo and Fruitz.

Growth Levers

For Q1 2023, Bumble Inc. reported a revenue of $242.9 million, which was 16 percent higher as compared to last year. The company’s annual revenue increased from $761 million in FY2021 to $904 million in FY2022—a 19 percent jump, which was mostly led by revenue growth from the flagship dating app. Of the total revenue in Q1 2023, almost $194 million comes from the Bumble app.

The reason for strong growth, both in terms of revenue and members? “Building experiences that really differentiate us and help us stand out from the market,” explains Tariq Shaukat, president of Bumble Inc. Recently, he announced that he will step down in September 2023 and take on an advisory role at the organisation.

With all its applications, Bumble Inc is working to improve its products and marketing strategy. According to the company presentation for Q1 2023 results, the Bumble application has 2.3 million paying users. Bumble’s women-first approach along with its focus on safety, allows it to stand out amongst other competitors. According to Statista, Bumble is the second most downloaded dating application globally.

Also read: Whitney Wolfe Herd: How I built a tech company with women in control

The Badoo app—founded in 2006 and now part of Bumble Inc—is also a dating application with close to 1.2 million app and paying users, as on December 2022. It is a market leader in Europe and Latin America, as per the company’s 2022 Annual report. Andrey Andreev, founder of Badoo, was one of the main investors of Bumble. In 2019, he sold his entire stake in MagicLab (the company that owned both Bumble and Badoo) to Blackstone. Andreev then stepped away from the business, and Wolfe Herd, Bumble’s founder became the CEO of the company, now known as Bumble Inc. In January 2022, Bumble Inc acquired Fruitz, a fast-growing dating app with a Gen-Z focus. It was the second most downloaded dating application in France in 2022.

The US continues to be a large market, but Anuradha Subramanian, chief financial officer, Bumble Inc says, “international growth is a big pillar of our growth strategy.” Bumble has been seeing a lot of traction from Western Europe, Latin America and India is increasingly becoming a critical market. For every market, Bumble comes up with a unique marketing strategy, which is always in line with the local dynamics of that particular market. “It’s not just about spending money to acquire customers for us, it is to build a brand organically from ground up in every market,” she adds.

Inside Bumble's next phase of growth

Bumble’s India focus

In 2019, India was one of the first international markets that Bumble expanded to, and the country has since been a key market. According to a recent report by data.ai Intelligence, India emerged as the 5th fastest-growing market in terms of year-over-year growth in dating app spending in 2022. Indians spent $31 million more on dating apps in 2022 than they did in 2021.

Like with every other market globally, Bumble focussed on having a hyperlocal approach with India. The application supports over 30 languages in India. The platform offers language badges for people to showcase their language preferences and communicate more easily with their potential matches.

Inside Bumble's next phase of growth

In order to further ensure safety for women, says Shaukat, “we introduced a feature where a woman can use only the first initial of her name to create her Bumble Date profile. Whenever she is ready and comfortable to share her full name with connections, she can; but until then, her identity is protected.” This feature is only available for the Indian market.

In India, Bumble operates on a freemium model, with the availability of different subscription packages like Bumble Boost—base tier subscription—at Rs149 per week and Bumble Premium starting at Rs449 for a week, for which you get access to certain enhanced features. Subramanian says, “We have a pricing team that looks at pricing in every market at a nuanced level.” When entering a new market, Bumble gives people the option to test out some of the paid features—such as Spotlight and SuperSwipe, by paying for them individually. “They can then upsell into a subscription product, if they need to,” she adds.

As compared to many of its peers, Bumble claims to be earning a lot more in terms of subscription revenue. A driving force for this could be its pricing strategy. Though Bumble Biz and Bumble for Friends have a few paid-feature options, a majority of its revenue comes from Bumble Date.

Also read: Billion-dollar Bumble

Innovation-led approach

“We define ourselves as a product and engineering-led company. We know that bad products can't market their way to being great products,” says Shaukat. The product team at Bumble has been working on ways to further integrate AI and ML. For years now, content moderation, personalisation and recommendations have all been powered by this technology.

In Western Europe and India, Bumble has recently launched a test product called “Best Bees”, which gives a more curated list of potential matches via an AI-driven algorithm. Shaukat explains, “Instead of saying ‘Here’s all the people that you may want to connect with’, with Best Bees, the AI tech gives you the top three people that Bumble thinks will be of high interest to you.” Bumble has been seeing a double digit increase in match rates coming from Best Bees.

Inside Bumble's next phase of growth

Apart from introducing products like these, AI can also help improve existing user experience. For instance, selecting the best photo to upload for a user’s profile or crafting a bio to maximise the user’s chance in finding the most compatible match. The team is also working on ways to use AI to make software development faster and more efficient. Subramanian says, “We believe that if you build the best experience for the member, the growth automatically comes.”

Global Expansion

Most recently, Bumble has acquired Official, an app that’s meant to build stronger relationships for couples through mood check-ins and date planning. “Our philosophy is not to just buy a bunch of apps in our portfolio, we want to make sure we are much disciplined about what we are acquiring,” reckons Subramanian.

Bumble for Friends came about organically, when the team found that a lot of people were on the application with bios stating: Here to find friends, not to date. “They were almost hacking the app in order to use it for a completely different use-case. That to us was a good signal that we should lean into this and start really building products like Bumble for Friends ,” says Shaukat. Close to 15 percent of our users use Bumble for Friends. It is one area that the team at Bumble Inc is hoping to expand rapidly. “We feel like there isn’t a product out there like Bumble for Friends, which brings people together. So, this is definitely an exciting opportunity,” says Subramanian. The feature is particularly extremely common in India.

Inside Bumble's next phase of growth

Similarly, Bumble Bizz helps people build a professional network and find jobs through this network. “With very little marketing, it is already getting a lot of organic traction. We are quite pleased with the high usage of the product,” adds Shaukat. While both have some paid-features available, there is no big plan to monetise either of these in the near future.

The team is only just getting started with its global expansion. Moving forward, they hope to continue growing deeper in every market—be it newer cities or demographics. Shaukat claims that Bumble has a lot of resonance with women, and they view it more as a lifestyle brand, instead of a pure dating app. “When we speak to our member base, they ask us things like when are you going to help us with fertility? Or with weddings?” he reckons. “That is also one of the key differences that we take pride in—we’ve built a brand that means something, particularly for women.” Clearly, there is a lot more for the brand to explore.

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