The Founder of Bumble Reveals How the 'Question of Nine' Can Help You Stay Focused
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Editor's Note: Entrepreneur's "20 Questions" series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.
Bumble may be best known as the dating platform where women make the first move. But founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe’s goal isn’t only to help people find love.
“What I've learned is we as human beings need relationships to survive; it is the core of our happiness and core of our health,” says Wolfe. “We are only as healthy as our least healthy relationship.”
With that lesson in mind, Wolfe is on a mission to is to give everyone the means to find all kinds meaningful relationships -- not just a date or long-term boyfriend or girlfriend.
To that end, in April 2016 the company launched a friend-finding feature called BumbleBFF. BumbleBIZZ, a platform designed to connect users around professional interests, is on track to launch later this year.
“We need to fill our days with good people that make us feel good about ourselves,” says Wolfe. “That's really what we want Bumble to be.”
We caught up with Wolfe and asked her 20 questions to figure out what makes her tick.
1. How do you start your day?
Most of my days are unpredictable and start at different times, so I try my best to keep up a stable morning routine. I sleep with the drapes open to rise with the sun. I think that’s a healthy thing to do because even if you don’t like to wake up early, your body does adjust.
I have a yoga mat and a huge bottle of water next to my bed so when I get up, I drink that and then try to stretch and do some form of a morning workout. I do my best to avoid the direct-to-phone dive, because once that starts it’s nearly impossible to escape.
I spend the first 30 minutes of the morning being cognizant of my family and dog -- taking him for a walk, spending time with my fiance -- before it goes into madness and work mode.
2. How do you end your day?
What I have found is that the best way to unwind is cooking. You only have two hands. If you are chopping veggies, you are forcing yourself to put the phone down or step away from the computer. It’s extremely relaxing. As stressful as cooking might be, it’s a stress that is different from the stress of the day. It creates a really nice shift of thought process. It’s also a great time to spend with my fiancee, because we get to talk while we cook.
3. What’s a book that changed your mind and why?
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. What it made me realize was no matter who you are in life, where you come from or where you live, everyone is fighting their own battle and everyone’s battle is equally important as the next.
To each person, those are their problems and they are more important than everyone else’s. It changes the way you think about humanity and about the way society operates and treats each other.
4. What’s a book you always recommend and why?
Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins. It shows you the effects of globalization and how everything that a first-world country does drastically affects a second- or third-world country. As one society or one sector of society rises, it has significant implications on the others and creates imbalance.
5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
I really try to ask myself the question of nine. Will this matter in nine minutes, nine hours, nine days, nine weeks, nine months or nine years? If it will truly matter for all of those, pay attention to it. If it isn’t going to matter in nine minutes, nine hours or nine days from now, you need to not pay attention to it.
I think it’s extremely easy to become distracted by noise, by things that might upset us or set us off track. It gives us this intrinsic feeling that I have to react to this. This concept of nine has kept me on track from losing focus on the things that truly matter. That way you can respond when you need to, but you don’t spend your time reacting to things that are not going to have any importance in a short period of time from now.
6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was always extremely creative. I was very artistic and never strong with numbers or science. I wanted to be an artist or a fashion designer. I wanted to be something that allowed for a lot of imagination.
7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
The word boss is a funny thing. I think we all have different bosses throughout our life. I don’t only apply that to work. Our teacher is a boss, our parents are sometimes a boss. This concept of boss is different from leader. In a company, a good boss isn’t seen as a boss, they are seen as a leader.
I’m not going to speak to work culture, because I’ve been my own boss for the last few years. But I will say that in school, I had some professors who took more of the bad cop approach. It taught me how to take a different approach. I don't believe in leading with fear; I don't think it's productive. I don't think it's healthy, and I don't think it inspires creativity or allows passion or talent to really thrive. I've tried to instill that in my company by leading with kindness, compassion and empathy.
8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
My business partner Andrey Andreev. He has had a profound impact on how I approach my work. He is extremely pragmatic. He's very realistic, and he's visionary in the sense that he can take a problem that might be there right now and can guide me on how to look at the long-term implications. It comes back that rule of nine. It's important to look at something down the road and not just in the immediate sense. I've been very fortunate to have him as a partner, because he's truly brilliant.
9. What’s a trip that changed you?
I did a study abroad program in London when I was in high school. My roommate was a good friend of mine from high school. We overslept one morning and the bus we were supposed to be riding was affected by a terror attack. This was July 2005.
That was eye opening. I was there with no family. I didn’t have smartphone to check in. The cell service wasn't letting anyone call out. It was a very frightening time, I remember walking through the streets of London terrified. People were gathered around in the streets watching the news on the TVs in the department stores. Sirens were going and red tape everywhere. At such a young age, I think that was a life-changing trip.
10. What inspires you?
The potential of positive impact and the ability to create. That's the most exciting part of Bumble to me. We get to create things that didn’t exist before.
11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
My first real business was in college. I created a line of organic tote bags that would benefit the BP oil spill. I turned it into a creative business where I would have a different artist do a different designs to put on the bags, and I would sell them to the sororities around my campus.
12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?
Babysitting. I realized how slow an hour could go by. It made me have a profound respect for how hard it is to earn a living, and how dedicated one has to be to make a life for themselves. It taught me that whatever I needed to do in my life for a job, it had to be something I would do for free, because that's the only way I could justify spending the hours in the day.
13. What’s the best advice you ever took?
I think the best piece of advice I’ve ever taken is from my dad. He said there are three types of business: my business, your business and God and nature’s business. If it’s not your business, don’t think twice about it. It helps me calm my thoughts and helps me refocus.
14. What's the worst piece of advice you ever got?
Go in a tanning bed. Truly. In my teens and early 20s, that that was the thing to do.
15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
Turn off your phone. Don’t just silence it. Turn the device off in a drawer for 20 minutes and force yourself to be away from it. It will change your life. It makes me so much more productive. Try to do that once or twice a week. When you know the phone is off, it allows you to fully detach from it and focus on what you need to get done.
16. Is there an app or tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?
I love Slack. I had a hard time with it at first, but I like the unread and read function. It’s very overwhelming when you have messages you read and forget about. Slack keeps things organized -- the minute the message is read, you made peace with it.
17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
I love my work; it’s what I want to do most. It’s not a burden; it’s my passion. It’s genuinely my favorite hobby. I have almost had to force myself to create work-life balance. I try my best to leave Bumble at home once or twice a week, or go out with my fiancee or friends to change the pace.
18. How do you prevent burnout?
I think it’s self-care. Go to bed an extra hour early or go to a movie. Do things you haven’t had time for. Go for a run. It’s about allowing yourself to focus on yourself outside of work.
19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?
Taking an hour to go play outside, call an old friend who knows nothing about your business and could care less. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and go do some good for an afternoon.
20. What are you learning now?
I’m learning a lot about accounting. I’m not super math savvy, but I think it’s something that is incredibly important to any business. I’m working on that and learning more about different corners of the business. I'm really trying to educate not only myself but the rest of the team in categories they might not specialize in.