Recently one of our members asked to be removed from our records. She complained that we were not a progressive/modernist startup, contrary to what we had been implying. The example she cited was that we did not have “Atheist” as a choice in the section where we ask for a member’s religion. Never mind that she was free to select “Other Religion” and also “Religion does not play an important role in my daily life”.
The semantics of “Atheism” being equated with “Other religion” aside, how does a startup respond to such an allegation? Is there a universal and precise definition of progressiveness? This may not sound a terribly relevant question if you are just selling stuff online but it gains significance if you are in the business of matching people for life. iBluebottle does want to be perceived as a progressive company (in the broadest sense of the term) and this accusation did seem puzzling.
We replied that she was of course entitled to her opinion but equating “asking for your religion and not offering an atheist option” to “not being progressive” appears to be a rather narrow interpretation of the term. We might consider including “Atheist” as an option but our decision will probably be driven more by a business imperative then a purely ideological one.
According to wikipedia, Progressivism is a general political philosophy advocating or favoring social, political, and economic reform or changes usually in opposition to conservative or reactionary ideologies.
We believe we are trying to make the process of finding a match more personal and less commoditized. Incorporating a personality matching engine, deterring parents to complete the profiles of their sons and daughters (or sending us their “bio-data”) and explicitly discouraging caste as a matching criteria (even though people can still choose to include it) are some of our features we think could be considered progressive.
And then there is the proverbial elephant in the room, same-sex matching. At this time iBluebottle does not offer its services to the LGBT community. Are we playing it safe? You bet.
We have no desire to alienate our mainstream customers or fold under the weight of the political and social furore that will no doubt ensue if we welcomed LGBT members. Our matching philosophy does not exist in a vacuum but is necessarily framed by the societal mores of the market in which we operate.
Whilst all of us at iBluebottle can profess to be deep liberals, we cannot hoist our personal values on our startup. We believe we can be progressive even if we allow our commercial sense to trump ideology every time.