Bumble APAC marketing director Michelle Battersby on why Bumble’s looking for New Zealand’s next woman entrepreneur
It’s no secret that social networking app Bumble is an advocate for women in business. Founder Whitney Wolfe Herd famously broke away from Tinder after co-founding it alongside current CEO Sean Rad and four other men to found Bumble in 2014, and recently told Fast Company, “We’re not one of our competitors that’s just trying to hook people up” and that she wants to build a “female internet,” a direct counterpoint to the Brotopia that built much of the internet.
The company has since become known for its women-led and women-celebrated culture: workers are given flexible hours for parenting and stipends for things like massages and gym memberships. Bumble has since amassed over 70 million registered users in more than 150 countries, as well as rolling out Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF options alongside Bumble Date.
It has now launched the Bumble Bizz competition in the Asia Pacific region, where it will be choosing a women-led recipient of a US$5000 grant in each country, including New Zealand. See our chat with APAC marketing director Michelle Battersby below.
Idealog: Bumble is obviously a strong advocate for women in business, from founder Whitney Wolfe Herd’s founding the first women-led dating app to you taking on a role in an entirely new industry to launch Bumble’s Australia operations. What are the key qualities you are looking for in a woman leader with this Bumble Bizz pitch competition?
Michelle Battersby: We’ll be looking for businesses that have a clear mission and aim to solve a real-world problem. We’ll be asking applicants to show why their business exists, how it is currently funded, and how the grant will support further growth. For us at Bumble, this is about providing opportunities for women entrepreneurs and opening up more pathways to success for them, while also encouraging them to make the first move with their business ventures. The team and I are all thrilled we’re able to offer this.
Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd
Based off your experience working for a global company, are there any problems you think Australian and New Zealand women business leaders are particularly good at solving, or something unique about their approach on the world stage?
Australians and New Zealanders have a great reputation for being genuine and friendly – two traits that can go a long way when networking and starting out. However, I also think we’re really direct and to the point, and there is never much beating around the bush. This is important because being able to articulate your wants and needs is critical in business.
A topic we’re looking at Idealog the moment is reimagination in business and how people or companies can reinvent themselves. Prior to Bumble, you were working in banking before you got the call up from Whitney. Can you describe the experience of pivoting into an entirely new industry, and the emotions you were feeling? How did you know it was the right move for you?
I don’t think that I knew it would be right for me at first, I just had a very strong sense that I wanted to be a part of it. I couldn’t let the opportunity fly past without being involved. I remember that there was this very intense gut feeling that what Whitney was proposing was going to work. I went through a range of emotions; excitement, thrill, fear, anxiousness and definitely self doubt – however the negative emotions didn’t last long. When you throw yourself head first into something, you are giving yourself the option to sink or swim – there isn’t time for doubt or to ask questions. You have to move quickly and back yourself through the process.
You’ve talked in previous interviews about how you had no prior experience in events, PR and marketing before Bumble. What do you think is the benefit of taking a leap of faith and starting a new venture where you’re not 100 percent qualified?
Naivety is power. I didn’t have anything to fear other than my own failure. Like they say, what you don’t know can’t hurt you! If I had known how hard it was going to be, and all the things I was going to have to do – media interviews, public speaking, negotiating deals… I probably would have been too scared to say yes. I could try and fail and it didn’t matter, I would just try again and get it right the second time round.
Gut instinct and intuition in business is something that’s hard to define, but is often that x factor in important decisions. How important have they been to you over the course of your career, and why?
I have learnt to let my gut drive everything. You know when something isn’t sitting well with you. Listen to that and pay closer attention to it than you think you need to. There have been times where I haven’t listened to my gut or ignored it and it’s come back around to bite me.
Did you ever foresee yourself working in the tech industry? Do you think progress has been made in taking down stereotypes that the tech industry is boring, limited to extremely technical roles or not for women?
I never thought I would have worked in tech. What I love about the space is the pace at which it’s growing and developing. The opportunity feels endless. I think in the broader industry there may be work to do in getting more women into roles, however Bumble has always had gender equality is at the top of the agenda. I believe brands like Bumble have the opportunity to help to break down the negative stereotypes about the industry – we’re creating opportunities for women in tech and people in roles like my own have the ability to shine a light on the different ways you can get into tech, and how diverse the opportunities can be.
What do you think companies like Bumble do for dispelling those myths for women worldwide?
Bumble empowers women to make the first move. Whether it is in your career, dating life or friendships, we put the control in the hands of women to drive the conversations they want to have. The product itself does a lot for empowering women, yet the company also sets a clear example that women leaders can succeed. Leaders like Whitney can achieve enormous success leading with kindness and equality in mind.
Bumble’s head office in Austin, Texas
Whitney, Bumble’s founder, also doesn’t shy away from where society and business intersect, from banning images of guns on the app after the mass shooting in Florida last year, or lobbying for a law in Texas that makes unsolicited nudes illegal. What’s it like to work for a company that has such a clear social purpose and mission? Does it align with your own passions?
I couldn’t imagine working for a company that did not align with my own passions. Bumble’s values were the core reason why I joined the company three years ago. It’s incredible working for a brand that lives and breathes its values and integrates them into business decisions. This proven through changes we’ve made to the product, such as banning of images of guns in users profiles, and more recently the introduction of our Private Detector feature which recognises lewd images, blurs them and alerts the user they have been sent something inappropriate.
There is a lot happening in the women in business space in New Zealand, and I’m sure this is also the case in Australia. What are yourself and the Bumble team hoping people involved with the pitch competition and Bumble Bizz Summit will take away from it? What will it bring to the women in business discussions that’s unique?
We have a lineup of incredible international guests which is quite unique compared to a lot of panel events being held in Australia right now. We wanted to showcase the diversity of talent we have across the Asia Pacific region, and we will be bringing speakers over from India, New Zealand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore. In addition, we’ll have a very special speaker attending from the US (which we are so excited to announce soon!). We hope that by showcasing fresh faces, new businesses and international stories, we can provide an enriching experience for all that attend.
As well as this, we want to encourage everyone attending to get on Bumble Bizz! They’ll be able to check out who is in the room, and perhaps even match with one of our incredible panelists. There will be break out areas, meet and greets with guests and the opportunity to mingle with those around you. It is not to be missed!
When: Applications for the Bumble Bizz competition are open now and close next Friday 27 September.
How: To enter the competition, download the Bumble app and match with the in-app promotion to pitch.
Where: The winner will be flown to the inaugural APAC Bumble Bizz Summit, which is being held Thursday 10 October at Carriageworks in Sydney.
Who: Speakers at the Bumble Bizz APAC summit include New Zealand’s own Maggie Marilyn founder Maggie Hewitt, Australia’s founder and director of Sweaty Betty PR and Ministry of Talent Roxy Jacenko and Singapore’s founder of Fitsphere Liv Lo Golding.
Why: To go in the draw to receive a US$5000 grant for your business and to rub shoulders with a diverse range of women business leaders from all over the Asia Pacific.