You may recall we were somewhat overjoyed when Badoo launched "Lookalikes", the genius feature that allows you to find people who look like your celebrity crush. Admittedly, we haven't found Jake Gyllenhaal's British twin (yet), but Badoo continues to improve the dating field one swipe at a time.
A decade after launching, it's become the biggest dating app in the world. It's won the hearts of 375 million users with budding romances cropping up in 190 countries. Not bad for an app that started as a social discovery website.
This mass phenomenon is thanks, in part, to the team behind the addictive interface. Everyone from web developers to data analysts tweak and tailor in order to improve the experience and keep unsolicited DPs at bay. The app is constantly working on safety features to ensure women don't need to take any chances, such as Selfie Requests that allow you to ask a guy to pose for a selfie to prove he's legit.
To give us a rare look at the inner workings, ELLE was invited to Badoo's headquarters in London's Soho. The office is open-plan, bright and buzzy in true startup style. The refrigerators are loaded with every kind of beverage, a drool-worthy buffet is laid out three times a day and tables are filled with all-you-can-eat sweets, stationery and branded swag (in Badoo purple, natch).
Freebies aside, we were intrigued to hear what it's like for women working at a dating app. Taking a seat on the company's roof terrace, we met three Badoo employees ready to fill us in...
We're encouraged to think fast and act quickly
Candice Ren - Head of Analytics
Dating is a lot about data. My role uses data science to assess whether our users are happy with the experience. Are they loving or hating new features? Are they spending more time on the app? Are we seeing more matches? As any good data analyst knows, the process is always the same: collect, analyse, adjust, repeat. And I love geeking out! We're encouraged to think fast, build a prototype and get testing.
Our mission is to provide a safe and fun place for people to meet. It's more of a social network, not a source of sleazy hook-ups and that's what attracted me to the role. That mentality is seen throughout the company where staff are encouraged to work hard, play hard. A lot of tech companies have a male-dominant culture, but Badoo has always made me feel valued and empowered.
As a female manager, I hire based on skill rather than gender. When I started here four years ago, I was happily surprised to find a balanced mix of women and men from diverse backgrounds. I was working at L'Oreal in Paris when the position came up so I had no idea about the dating industry. Badoo flew me to the UK for a quick succession of interviews and before I knew it, I was offered the job and moving to London. That's how it works here, there's no hanging around.
One of the many perks of working at Badoo has to be the food. As employees, we get catered for breakfast, lunch and dinner. While this is potentially hazardous to the waistline, there's a great balance of dishes - from anything to quinoa salads to oysters or Meat Liquor burgers (as cheat day treat!). So if you're after something healthy, the option is always there. As well as being fed and watered, we get daily massages, are treated to regular manicures, haircuts, parties, special surprises and holiday treats. We've even had puppy days. What's not to love?
I love seeing my ideas come to life
Kateryna Trofimenko - Lead iOS Developer
Badoo is a great place not only for finding love, but for friends as well.As a developer, it's my job to constantly update and experiment. Some ideas work, some don't, but the company is always open to suggestions from every member of the team, whether it's a sticker update or face recognition technology. Video chat was a huge challenge for us and it means you can meet your new connection face to face, behind the safety of your screen.
The role has improved my confidence when chatting to guys. Thanks to all the data analysis, it's clear that personal opening lines get the best response. "Hey, what's up?" just won't cut it. So my tip is to look through the profile and pick out something specific, whether it's a love of bikes or an interest in food, then tailor your chat to that person.
Our female users have the upper hand
Mariko O'Shea - Head of legal
I head up an all-female team so there's a strong team spirit and feeling of togetherness. It feels good to work for a company that values safety and protects women, both in the office and on the app itself. Our users' security is so important to us and complaints are taken very seriously. You can block someone who is rude and if a user is repeatedly inappropriate, they will be permanently banned. We tackle potential catfish with our market-leading photo verification technology; verified profiles are marked with a blue tick. If a female user wants further reassurance, she can also use our Selfie Request feature, should she come across a suspicious profile.
It's a constant learning curve for me to be less lawyer'y and more flexible. I come from a corporate background, which was very strict with a lot of red tape so it was difficult to get things done. Badoo is the opposite of that; it's dynamic and modern. There aren't pointless processes to hold you back, which is so refreshing especially as you need to move quickly in order to keep up with the market.
Yes, the Badoo parties are legendary. There's typically a gathering every month and it's always great fun — good food, drinks and plenty of entertainment. Ella Eyre played at the Christmas party, which was amazing. It's a brilliant way to bond with colleagues and to let off steam.
The app is incredibly addictive. My job requires me to try it out, of course, and "Hey is for horses" is the best opening line I've come across. Have you tried the emojis? They're great. There's plenty of game-changing features going live soon — I'm sworn to secrecy, but watch this space…