Bumble and Badoo at the Forefront of Sexual Misconduct in Tech Industry

Published on July 18, 2019

As tech shifts into one of the biggest industries in the world , office culture shifts as well. In fortune-500 tech companies that are often founded by college-aged developers, it means that bureaucratic, cubicle-ridden offices with fluorescent lighting are a thing of the past. Tech offices and office cultures today are reminiscent of Entertainment 7Twenty, a “Parks and Recreation” skit that portrays Aziz Ansari as the owner of a sleek advertising agency with a “cool” office culture. One that features a spacious office filled with air hockey tables, a round-the-clock DJ, toilets made of money, and no actual work at all.

The gag is that it’s not too far off from the office cultures of Silicon Valley today (aside from the fact that actual work does get done). The perks of working at tech companies like Facebook, Google, and other tech startups are seemingly endless. In office cultures that are founded—and largely filled by—millennial entrepreneurs and tech specialists straight out of college, the party is never ending. HR departments lack resources in favor of glamorous perks like in-office beer kegs and video games. Unsurprisingly, this fuels toxic work environments where sexual misconduct is able to run rampant in new ways. Videos of in-office hookups are spread throughout companies, while sexism and a general lack of respect for women is only taken from one generation of office culture to another—creating an environment that feels more like a fraternity than a professional workspace.

Every few months a different major tech company is brought to the forefront of the conversation about how to fix these toxic work environments. Facebook, which was created on the very foundation of popularity and a flourishing social life, was the subject of controversy for most of 2018 (and earlier, considering this is how its early days were portrayed in film). More recently the focus has shifted toward Google when employees at the company’s headquarters staged a walkout to protest hefty payouts of an executive that was accused of sexual misconduct. Today, the conversation is taken out of Silicon Valley and brought to London, where the dating apps Bumble and Baloo are being accused of harvesting a toxic work environment for both women and people of color.

Forbes Reveals Massive Allegations

In an investigation published exclusively by Forbes, the female-focused dating apps Bumble and Badoo (which share an office in London) are outed for their toxic office environment. Allegations against Andrey Andreev, the CEO of Badoo and major stakeholder in Bumble, claim that the London work environment has long been a hub of partying, sexual misconduct, and racism. In one case, a video of an employee receiving oral sex from a prostitute circulated the office. Other internal reports describe photos of after-hours parties among employees as “Everyone was naked and doing lines of coke, and they were sending these photos over the internal email system.” At one point, an email list within the company was dedicated to discussion of said parties.

“I wonder if current Badoo’rs know of the afterparties with prostitues [sic] and cocaine in all their offices,” read a post in a Facebook group dedicated to the parties hosted by Badoo employees, as reported by Forbes. The Facebook group was shut down in 2011, but by then the standards for the work environment had been set. Though Andreev was said to have never attended such events, employees within the company claimed he knew what was going on. Today, Andreev claims he had no knowledge of the parties or discussions of them on internal email servers.

Naturally, such an office environment fueled regular occurrences of sexism and racism. Female employees began reporting the sexism to HR, which would only be met with a negative response or being completely ignored. When ex-employees began writing negative reviews on Glassdoor, an external HR team was hired to investigate the sexism within the company. In one instance, a male employee was fired following claims of inappropriately touching a female employee at a company party, only to be re-hired with the excuse that he was intoxicated when the event occurred and, therefore, cannot be held accountable to such a high degree.

Other reports claimed that racism was often seen within the company’s office environment, both toward employees and the users that were on the app itself. On several occasions, former marketing executives remember when Andreev would complain if too many of the app’s user-base had dark skin. Other comments were allegedly made toward employees of color, which earned the company a reputation for racism in addition to its wild party culture.

Bumble Responds

These allegations were potentially even more damaging for Bumble, a company that was founded on the very idea that dating apps should empower women rather than make them feel objectified. CEO and founder Whitney Wolfe Herd has been lobbying in Texas, Bumble’s U.S. headquarters, for greater penalty against people that send unwanted nude photos. In the wake of the allegations against Bumble’s sister company, Badoo, as well as its largest stakeholder, Andreev, its reputation is put on the line.

However, Wolfe Herd is standing by her co-founder and arguing that Andreev has been a pivotal figure in Bumble’s growth. “What I’ve seen firsthand from Andrey is creative and motivating behavior. Andrey has never been anything but kind and respectful to me,” said Wolfe Herd in a statement to Forbes. Wolfe Herd founded Bumble after a massive lawsuit against Tinder—which she played a pivotal role in founding—settled for a reported $1 million and without a non-compete clause. With the help of Andreev, Wolfe Herd has amassed a fortune of around $300 million since founding the female-focused dating app, Bumble.

Andreev is reportedly launching a full-fledged investigation by a third-party HR firm about the allegations against the toxic office culture in the company’s Covent Garden headquarters. “I am truly shocked and saddened by the allegations detailed in the Forbes article,” Andreev wrote to Business Insider in a statement. “First, I want to apologise to any Badoo employee who felt disrespected or was made to feel uncomfortable in any way. I am deeply sorry,” he continued.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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