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“He can’t say you’re desperate, because the app made you do it,” she says, adding that she tells her friends to make the first move and just “blame Bumble.” Matches expire after 24 hours, which provides an incentive for women to reach out before it’s too late (the women-message-first feature is only designed for straight couples—if you’re LGBTQ, either party can send the first message.) Wolfe says she had always been comfortable making the first move, even though she felt the stigma around being too forward.
“I would say ‘I’m just going to go up to him,’ and all my girlfriends were like ‘Oh no no no no, you can’t do that,'” she says.
“Guys found it to be ‘desperate,’ when it wasn’t desperate, it was part of a broken system.” Like many startup founders, Wolfe has big ambitions for the service: “It’s not a dating app, it’s a movement,” she says.
“This could change the way women and men treat each other, women and men date, and women feel about themselves.” Bumble launched about six months ago and seems to be catching on.
Men post pictures of themselves wearing button downs (not muscle tees) or hugging their moms (not endangered species.) And because they can’t message first, guys can’t hedge their bets by swiping right on every girl they see and messaging all of them to see who bites.
Their Austin-based office has only six employees—and five of them are women.“It’s important to me that nothing we do harms Tinder,” she says. It’s my baby.” But that doesn’t mean she’s not using similar tactics to get it off the ground.One of Wolfe’s major contributions to Tinder was her ability to get college students to download the app.A former member of Kappa at Southern Methodist University, Wolfe shows up at sororities with yellow balloons, cartons of yellow Hanky-Panky lacy underwear, and always, she says, “a cute purse.” Then she hands out a thong to each sorority sister who sends out 10 invitations to Bumble.“By the end, I’d show up and they’d be like ‘Go away, we’re already all on it! Because of the female-first messaging model, Bumble seems to be free of some of the sleaziness that plagues Tinder, at least for now.
And while the whole messy incident has been held up to illustrate the challenges women face in a notoriously bro-friendly tech culture, Wolfe stops short of calling out sexism in tech.