In Cosmopolitan’s spring 2024 issue, we set out to answer the question: Can AI fix dating? Today, we kick off that exploration in a conversation with Lidiane Jones, Bumble Inc.’s newly minted CEO. “Newly minted” as in...January 2 was her first official day on the job, and this is the very first interview she’s given in her new role (!!!). Lidiane comes to Bumble from Slack, where she led with a tech- and product-focused passion for “building experiences that are delightful and that surprise you”—a guiding principle that remains with her at this new gig. And although she may only be a few weeks into the job, she’s already diving headfirst into what founder and former CEO (now executive chair) Whitney Wolfe Herd promised in her Instagram post announcing the leadership change: Together, they have “big plans to transform love and relationships globally by being customer-obsessed, focused on AI/next-gen technology, and continuing to build a world-class brand that advocates fiercely for women.”
Long before AI was in the headlines nonstop, Bumble was tapping artificial intelligence to make their app a safer, more pleasant place. In 2019, the company launched Private Detector, a tool that relies on AI to identify and blur nude or inappropriate images, and in 2022, they open-sourced the tech so that other platforms could also use it to combat cyberflashing. Last year, Bumble was the only dating app to help launch an ethical framework with Partnership on AI, a coalition of industry leaders dedicated to guiding the responsible and ethical use of machine learning.
And today, Bumble is debuting their new AI-powered Deception Detector feature, which is designed specifically to combat and flag spam, fake profiles, and other scams across their platforms with a 99.5 percent precision rate.
In advance of Cosmo’s full investigation into how AI is poised to revolutionize everything about our dating lives, Lidiane shares her vision for Bumble’s future and explains exactly how the app can help you put your most authentic foot forward, whether you’re looking for a date or a mentor (or both).
Come back on Tuesday, February 13, for the answer to the question: Can AI fix dating?
What made you want to take on this role?
What the world needs more than ever is a space for women to have more equity in their relationships. And Bumble’s goal is to help the world have healthier, more equitable connections. We believe that if women have a better experience, it’s better for everybody. As a woman and having a daughter, it just feels like I can have such a positive impact here with this incredible team.
How old is your daughter?
She’s only 8. She’s this strong, bright, energetic little girl right now and I want her to feel that way throughout her life. There are so many journeys young women go through over time that can make them start losing confidence, doubting themselves, doubting each relationship that they have. So every time we’re having a conversation about our mission at Bumble, I think about how we’re going to impact the generations to come. I look at it through the lens of what my daughter will go through.
It must make the work feel very personal and critical and urgent, all at the same time.
Absolutely. And when I look at the product-experience journeys the company has delivered as far as women making the first move, I’ve been really excited about the fact that it doesn’t need to end with dating. As women, we move to new cities and want to make friends for a girls’ night out or we look for mentors for our careers. We’re 10 years in and I’d say we’re just getting started. I’m excited to learn from young women around the world about what else we can do to help them navigate all of the different relationships in their lives in a way that feels safe and healthy.
You were previously the CEO at Slack. Are there specific learnings from that job that you’ve brought with you?
There’s so much of what we did at Slack that I’m excited to bring to Bumble. I am so passionate about building experiences that are delightful and that surprise you and make you think, Wow, this just really made my day. I’ve met so many customers over the last couple of months since the announcement—groups of women who met on Bumble For Friends and now have regular get-togethers. I’m really energized to create more connections. I do think relationships shape who we are, and so if we can help unlock healthier, more confident relationships, that can help society be healthier and more connected overall.
It makes me think about how last year, the Surgeon General declared that we’re in a loneliness epidemic and raised a flag about how damaging loneliness can be not only to our mental health but to our physical health as well. It’s wild because in some ways we’re able to be more connected than ever through technology, but yet we have this huge issue. And now with developments in AI, there’s another layer of technology in the mix for people to navigate. Could you speak a bit to how Bumble approaches AI? Is it possible for machine learning to help bridge the connection gap and actually bring us closer?
I’ve been a technologist my whole career. And I always think about the purpose of AI in terms of how do we use this incredible set of innovation to better human interactions? If you think about dating, it’s so anxiety-provoking for people. It’s really difficult to put yourself out there, find the right person, start a conversation. We believe we can completely change the way this whole journey happens.
After 10 years, we’re sitting on so much exciting technology that has always been a part of Bumble’s platform, like the matching algorithms and safety features. And now we can build capabilities that are more like a dating coach. We want to bring joy to this journey of building your profile or discovering someone new. We want it to be very personalized, because we know a lot about you and your preferences and we also know about the people you’re trying to connect with, so we can help guide the experience of the first move: what to say, how to say it, why it would work.
In practicality, we don’t want to replace the human emotion and connection in any way. We just want to bring joy into navigating the journey and help people ultimately succeed in finding a great match or building great connections and friendships. Every aspect of the dating journey can be a much more engaging and joyful experience through AI.
I started dating my husband in 2011, right before dating apps took over. So my relationship to the apps has been purely professional, researching and reporting on them for Cosmo readers. I’ve often thought to myself how bad I probably would have been at dating on the apps. I don’t take photographs particularly well. It’s so hard to be quippy and clever in these short, tight ways on a profile. And something I’ve thought about a lot is how it takes such a specific skill set to put together a great profile, but those skills aren’t necessarily the actual things you’re looking for in a partner. It sounds like AI-driven tools can hopefully help eliminate some of that friction for daters.
I think you said it just right. One of the things I’ve been excited about while getting started here is diving into user feedback and research. For instance, when you look at Gen Z users, they’re so concerned about authenticity—as they should be. Through photo recommendations and creative coaching, AI can guide you to present your best, honest self on the apps. We believe that self-love is the starting point of all healthy relationships, and AI can actually help you portray an authentic version of yourself to potential matches.
You’re launching a new feature today called Deception Detector. What does it do, and why is it important for your users?
The most disheartening experience is going to all of the effort to put yourself out there on an app, and then getting matched with a fake profile. That’s not an experience we want our users to have. Scams, fake profiles, spam accounts—we’re really focused on weeding all of that out before it ever gets to our customers. The Deception Detector is completely AI powered, and in our testing, it’s blocked these things with 99.5 percent accuracy. It’s a great step as we continue to double down on the ethics around AI.
In 2019, we launched Private Detector, which is incredibly effective at blocking lewd images or offensive content. The company felt it was important for it not to just be something for Bumble, so we open-sourced it to make it available for the tech community at large to help deal with the issue of cyberflashing. We want to not only make our own platform great but help the industry be better.
Before I let you go, I have to ask: Do you have any dating advice Cosmo readers need to hear?
That’s been one of the fun things about joining Bumble—everybody who’s in their dating journey is ready to tell me something about it. I met up with a single friend the other day and he was asking me for advice—
Ah, so you’re also your friends’ personal therapist and matchmaker now! They must have left that off of the job description.
Oh, yeah. What I told him is that, you know, as anxiety-provoking as dating is for you, it’s the same for the person on the other side too. So I always like to say, “Lead with kindness.” And it’s supposed to be fun, meeting new people. Even if it doesn’t work out in the long haul, it’s a chance to get to know someone interesting.
Any other predictions for the future of dating?
I hope that dating can go back to being a fun experience for people. I’m really excited about the AI innovations that can help you be your true self and feel confident about dating, combined with this intergenerational shift toward authentic relationships and connecting in real life. It’s a perfect combination to develop the next generation of healthy relationships.
Bringing the fun back to dating again—I love that.
I’ve really been enjoying hearing so many customer stories in my first few weeks. One of the greatest joys of being at Bumble is how much our customers love it. I was at a formal investor meeting in New York and this very serious gentleman walked over to me and said, “I met my fiancée on Bumble.” Hearing the anecdotes of customer love has been just incredible. So I’m excited to be here.
Want to learn more about the changes AI is making to your love life...and how to make it work for you? Follow along next week as we seek to answer the question: Can AI fix dating?
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