The author taking a break to check out her Bumble Bizz matches.
It was only a matter of time before the “swipe right” culture would go from helping you find your next date to your next job.
Enter, Bumble Bizz. It’s a separate section of the popular Bumble dating app that’s specifically for professional networking. You download the app and switch to Bumble Bizz (no need to sign up for the dating part of the app) by choosing it from a drop down at the top. It’s billed as a more casual alternative to career sites like LinkedIn, and connections are made by — you guessed it — swiping right on folks with whom you might like to talk shop over a cup of coffee.
When the app launched in October, the LearnVest team wanted to try it out — after all, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to take your career to the next level. Although I volunteered to be the guinea pig, I was a little skeptical — it seemed unlikely that the source of so many of my friends’ laughably bad dating stories was going to lead to productive professional conversations. I set up my profile anyway, which included a short summary of my work experience and interests, paired with a tasteful headshot and some images of the articles I’d written.
My suspicions proved to be true, at least initially. I was continually swiping left on users who were still in high school, as well as lots of people who didn’t seem to know what the app was for — as evidenced by professional summaries like, “Hey wassup, I just want to know what love is.” I was frustrated that I couldn’t sort by industry or experience level — the way dating apps let you target by height or age — and my attempts to connect with others working in content, or even marketing, felt like searching for a needle in a haystack. The media-types I did match with didn’t seem particularly eager to engage.
I almost gave up, but came across a Refinery29 interview with Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe in which she explained her motivation for starting Bizz, echoing the same feminist sentiments that separate Bumble dating from the likes of Tinder, Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel.
“When we were building Bumble Bizz, a lot of people told me they were glad because they were being solicited through LinkedIn by guys saying things like, ‘Professionally speaking, you’re really beautiful.’ That’s not professional,” Wolfe told Refinery29. “Even if they’re not necessarily inappropriate in an inflammatory sense, they'll say stuff like, ‘Hi, I saw you on Bumble and just thought I’d reach out to you here.’ No, that’s not how this works, don’t do that.”
Since most of the marketing and content pros I’d found on the app were other women, I hadn’t thought much about the fact that, like the dating app, Bumble Bizz requires women to make the first move. So, after reading Wolfe’s interview I had a slight change of heart. At a time when workplace sexual harassment seems to make headlines every day, I felt appreciative that Bizz is trying to create an alternative space for women to further their career goals and help level a professional playing field that is forever tilted in men’s favor.
So I stuck it out until I managed to get one Bumble Bizz coffee date on my calendar. I met with Anna*, a 25-year-old marketer working for another financial technology startup. We talked about things like the challenges of building online communities in our industry and how to engage social followers. And, of course, we talked about our experiences with the app. She’d been using it for about four weeks, but also had trouble finding people she wanted to meet offline.
“Most of the people I’ve matched with will just respond by saying ‘text me,’ and it feels very unprofessional,” she said. I was the first person she had met with, and she didn’t have plans yet to meet any others. “The swipe model makes it so similar to a dating app, I’m not sure people know it’s for networking,” she added, showing me screenshots of some of the more colorful profiles she’d encountered. “I pretty much only swipe right on other women, because I’m not sure if a guy would get the right idea. Plus I don’t need another man to tell me about his career.”
When asked why she downloaded the app in the first place, Anna said that she wanted to expand her network beyond friends and friends of friends. “I went to a women’s college and am an active LinkedIn user, but on that platform I felt like I was limiting myself to only connecting with people who went to Seven Sisters schools.” Trying a broader network like Bumble Bizz felt like a healthy challenge, she explained.
She also referenced the app’s apparent, if unmet, potential as “a female empowerment tool.” Hopefully with more time, it will become just that. As for me, I don’t think I’ll be using the app again regularly, at least not until there are more users and I can search the network more easily. For now, I’ll stick to LinkedIn and friend-of-a-friend intros for networking.
*Names have been changed.