How a Recent UT Grad Became an Ambassador for Bumble on Campus

Like many of us lucky enough to attend college, my time in school was spent attending class, working a part-time retail job, studying abroad, and spending hours talking to my roommates about the great things we were going to do once we finally graduated.  

In retrospect, we approached those four years as a layover between childhood and adulthood, a time to be reckless and curious and maybe a little selfish. We applied to internships only because they were required to graduate, and if the idea of starting a business ever occurred to me, I certainly didn’t think it was feasible. (In fact, the only thing I ever successfully started was an epic, years-long prank war that finally came to an end when my friend Tom’s Jeep was stolen, and, assuming one of us was just pulling a prank, he waited hours to call the police and file a report.) 

At The University of Texas at Austin, however, there is a group of ambitious young people who aren’t wasting time launching prank wars. Instead, they’re launching the next generation of American businesses—and attracting the attention of one of the country’s most powerful technology companies.  

In April 2019, Bumble, the self-described “women-first social network” launched its first-ever First Movers Club on UT campus. For those who haven’t navigated the dark waters of online dating, Bumble began in 2014, doubling as the female-friendly dating app and an antidote to Tinder. Bumble’s CEO and founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, also co-founded Tinder, but found the app, which invites users to swipe right or left on potential dates depending on their interest, off-putting. Though Bumble follows a similar swipe-right model, Tinder can sometimes feel like an uncomfortable place, especially for women who are forced to navigate unwanted advances in their quest to find a date. 

In the years since its launch, Bumble has created women-forward products that resonate with users—and Wall Street. In June 2018, Forbes placed Bumble’s value at $1 billion.  

The First Movers Club is the latest in a series of those products for the company, and is technically part of Bumble Bizz, the company’s professional networking app launched in 2017. The inaugural group, mainly of women, serve as brand ambassadors for the company while also gaining access to Bumble’s larger professional network. 

 The company has plans to expand First Movers to college campuses across the U.S., but said it was “excited” about launching at its hometown university first. 

 “The First Movers Club is about creating an in-real-life community of young movers and shakers in business,” says Priti Joshi, BBA ’09, Bumble’s global director of strategy. “We’re giving them the opportunity to share what they’re doing with a broader social network.” 

For its first class, Bumble tapped nine undergraduates from different specialties, including Katherine Allen, BA ’19, Life Member. Since coming to UT as a Texas Exes Forty Acres Scholar, Allen has been a mechanical engineering and Plan II Honors student; a serial entrepreneur; and co-founder of an on-campus start-up incubator. It’s enough to make you regret wasting all that time pulling pranks. 

An entrepreneur since high school, Allen is a natural fit for the club. She’s launched a series of companies, some successful, some admittedly not, throughout her time at UT, and co-founded Genesis, an on-campus organization that provides “pre-seed capital to UT entrepreneurs.” 

 And though she’s helped give more than $1.2 million in that pre-seed funding to budding UT business owners, it’s Allen’s software company that’s capturing people’s attention. When we meet this past spring at Bumble’s Central Austin headquarters, known affectionately as The Hive, Allen has just flown in from San Francisco, where she and her co-founder, Atreya Misra, BS ’18, spent the past few days meeting with potential investors for their newest venture, Flo Recruit. Poised and articulate, it’s easy to forget that Allen’s still in college—until you catch a glimpse of her overstuffed backpack tossed into a corner. 

 As she explains it, the inspiration for Flo Recruit came in a delightfully UT way: during Rush. 

 “I was in a sorority and thought the recruitment process was totally dumb,” Allen explains. “It was paper-laden, and people would fall through the cracks.” 

 Surely, she thought, there must be a way for sororities and fraternities to prioritize pledges. The first incarnation, Flo Greek, achieved some success, but Allen found working with frats a bit unpredictable. “Fraternities are fun, but at the time they’d be like, ‘We don’t know if we should buy more cases of beer or invest in this software,’” she laughs. 

 The company got out of the Greek game after a local firm began using the software for corporate recruiting. A name change followed, and newly minted Flo Recruit continued attracting corporate clients, mainly law and accounting firms. 

 Last year, Allen and Misra caught the attention of Steve Hicks, BA ’72, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, one of the first investors in Kendra Scott’s eponymous and wildly successful jewelry company. In November 2018, Hicks agreed to invest in Flo Recruit, the first time the company had taken on real capital. 

 In addition to Hicks’ investment, Allen credits First Movers Club and the connections she made through Bumble COO Sarah Jones Simmons for her success. “[Sarah] was my first foray into what Bumble did,” says Allen, who initially reached out to Jones Simmons for advice on an accelerator project. “She did some practice interviews with us … she just gave of herself first and I thought that was representative of the Bumble brand.” 

Allen and Misra are now able to work full-time on Flo Recruit after graduation. “We’re excited. I mean, it’s nerve-racking in some ways, but in other ways we’ve worked really hard while we’re in school to de-risk this business. We have real paying customers, and we’re not paying ourselves much, but it’s something,” Allen says. 

 
 
 

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