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Bumble looks to revive its friendship-focused BFF product in wake of dating app downturn
March 2, 2024

Bumble looks to revive its friendship-focused BFF product in wake of dating app downturn

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Dating app maker Bumble is rethinking its vision for the company’s future after announcing weak earnings and massive job cuts that will see the company cutting a third of its staff, or around 350 employees. In addition to plans to revamp its app for Gen Z, the company’s focus under new CEO Lidiane Jones, previously CEO of Slack, will include building out a social network for its Bumble BFF friend-finding business.

Currently, the BFF side of Bumble’s app uses the same swipe-to-like mechanism that’s used on the dating side, where users are presented with a profile they can either like to match or pass.

Jones believes this format hasn’t worked out well for the company, despite growing customer demand for apps that help them find friendships and platonic connections.

‘Candidly, we have been slow to realize this broader vision with Bumble BFF thus far,’ she told investors on Tuesday’s Q4 2023 earnings call. ‘Going forward, we will focus our reinvestment to accelerate a bolder strategy for Bumble For Friends, one that will focus on building equitable and safe friendships across communities of people with similar interests that want real-life connections,’ Jones added.

Under Jones, Bumble will reallocate the company’s (now more limited) resources into areas it believes present opportunities for growth, including the use of AI in the dating app segment — as competitor Match is also doing — but also to innovate in the friend-finding category with BFF.

The CEO noted that the current BFF product has a small, but strong following. This is due to BFF using the same one-to-one match paradigm for friendships as Bumble uses for dating.

But this, Jones explained, limits BFF to only those who are comfortable with that paradigm. That’s something that may work for dating, but not as well for friendships, in other words.

Instead, the new BFF will focus on helping users connect with one another in new ways — or rather, in ways that are more akin to a social networking app.

‘…What we want to do is actually shift to that paradigm and [make] Bumble For Friends a lot more about building and finding communities. And this is truly what our customers are telling [us] — they love being part of our platform,’ Jones said. But she added, ‘It’s really hard to connect with each other. So, we are really going to accelerate the investment in that.’

Though the company hasn’t yet revealed its roadmap for the changes to BFF, some earlier tests and internal product developments could offer an idea.

Back in August 2022, Bumble was spotted experimenting with a new social networking feature dubbed ‘Hive,’ which would allow users to connect via communities, and also included support for things like group chat, polls and video calls. Bumble had briefed investors on Hive during its Q2 earnings that year, noting it would focus on helping people find platonic connections through small communities. The product was also alpha-tested in markets like Toronto, where users created thousands of communities known as ‘Hives.’

But Hive never launched to all Bumble users and BFF today remains a friendship-focused version of the dating app format, with user profiles, photos and bios on profile pages that users swipe on to like and match.

Given Bumble’s job cuts, it’s not likely the company will build a new BFF format from the ground up, but will instead push Hive to launch publicly, as a means of revamping the friend-finding product.

Whether or not Bumble will actually be able to capitalize on this initiative in terms of its bottom line remains to be seen, however. Dating app users are willing to pay for perks and subscriptions that give them a better shot at finding love, but friendship seekers have plenty of other free choices, like Facebook Groups, Meetup, organizations and local community offerings, to meet people out in the real world. That could limit BFF’s ability to monetize as Bumble’s dating product does.

‘We plan to bring along the millions of customers we currently have in our base that are eager to continue to be part of our platform,’ said Jones of BFF. ‘We’ll have more to share about our full company strategy and product roadmap in the months ahead.’


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