Can Lidiane Jones be Bumble's perfect match?

Dating app Bumble is taking on Lidiane Jones, a well-regarded leader in tech, as its new boss. Can she work her magic in a new arena?

Lidiane Jones speaks at 2023 WSJs Future Of Everything Festival at Spring Studios on May 03 2023 in New York City
(Image credit: Joy Malone/Getty Images)

For an industry supposedly “devoted to facilitating love and partnership”, the history of the matchmaking sector is full of “strife and division”, says the Financial Times. One woman hoping to change that, or at least turn it to her advantage, is Lidiane Jones – the fast-rising, Brazilian-born tech executive, who has just jilted Slack after less than a year in charge to join the female-forward dating site, Bumble.

Jones, 44, arrives with glowing testimonials that wouldn’t look out of place on a dating profile. Last year, as Fast Company notes, she was effusively described by Slack’s co-founder and guiding light, Stewart Butterfield, as “pragmatic and caring, insightful, passionate, creative, kind and curious”, as well as hardworking and collaborative. Just the person, one might think, to turn the tide for Bumble, which has lost roughly 80% of its value since its 2021 initial public offering (IPO). But investors aren’t yet sold, says The Wall Street Journal – collectively “swiping left” by sending shares to an all-time low when her appointment was announced.

“She shouldn’t take it too personally.” Some of the reaction could be “founder infatuation”. Bumble has hardly thrived as a public company, but CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd – who started the firm in 2014 and was previously a co-founder of Tinder – still commands respect. And, although she’ll stay on as the company’s executive chair, investors worry that “the lack of consistent leadership in the C-suite will make it more difficult to establish a consistent strategy”.

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If Jones has any doubts, she doesn’t show it, says the FT. Her “underdog” background has equipped her with a fighting spirit. Born in São Paulo to a cleaner and a mechanic, she discovered the “magic” of programming during free computer classes at school and won a scholarship to the University of Michigan to study computer science at age 18. Barely able to speak English, she was so homesick her mother often begged her to return. “But I kept thinking – I won the lottery. And I can’t waste the ticket.”

“I kept thinking – I won the lottery. And I can’t waste the ticket”

Lidiane Jones

Following an internship at Apple, Jones joined Microsoft as a software engineer and stayed for 12 years, working on products including Excel and Office. She married a co-worker and had two children, shifting tack to join the wireless speaker company Sonos in 2015 to work on streaming music systems. After a four-year stint there, Jones “pivoted back to business software” by joining Salesforce, “which promoted her repeatedly”, says Fast Company. Nonetheless, she was reportedly surprised to be offered the role of CEO at Slack in late 2022, 18 months after Salesforce acquired the messaging business app in a $28bn deal.

The job of integrating two such distinctly different companies was never going to be easy – particularly in the teeth of a tech downturn and multiple lay-offs. For many at Slack, Jones remained “an intriguing but somewhat mysterious figure”, says TechCrunch. Still, Butterfield reckons her record there will stand her in good stead at Bumble. She arrived during “a perfect storm of anxiety among employees” and was able to provide the equanimity and stability people needed.

Bumble itself is no stranger to disharmony, having been founded by Wolfe Herd following a big fallout with her former Tinder partner, Justin Mateen. Indeed, Jones’ recruitment marks “a handover between two rare female leaders in tech”. Both women know there’s everything to play for. Although Match, whose multiple brands also include Hinge and OkCupid, remains the Goliath of the sector, it too has been “ghosted” by investors, notes The Wall Street Journal. The shares are down 40% in a year. 

The battle among dating sites now, says Jones, is about who can bring about “the next wave of innovation” by incorporating more artificial intelligence into their apps. As an often underestimated underdog, Jones reckons she has the advantage.

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Jane writes profiles for MoneyWeek and is city editor of The Week. A former British Society of Magazine Editors editor of the year, she cut her teeth in journalism editing The Daily Telegraph’s Letters page and writing gossip for the London Evening Standard – while contributing to a kaleidoscopic range of business magazines including Personnel Today, Edge, Microscope, Computing, PC Business World, and Business & Finance.

She has edited corporate publications for accountants BDO, business psychologists YSC Consulting, and the law firm Stephenson Harwood – also enjoying a stint as a researcher for the due diligence department of a global risk advisory firm.

Her sole book to date, Stay or Go? (2016), rehearsed the arguments on both sides of the EU referendum.

She lives in north London, has a degree in modern history from Trinity College, Oxford, and is currently learning to play the drums.