My favorite quote is: "If a rule is stupid, break it." – Luna's dad My happy place is: On the ski slope
Building safe spaces for underserved groups
CREATING THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE. The origin of Luna Ray's startup begins with an unsolicited “dick pic” she received on a dating app. It was her first time using an online dating platform – a result of the pandemic – and she had always preferred meeting people within her community. "During the pandemic, I really missed that safety that comes with meeting people in the community, that community accountability. If you don’t treat people in the community well, you don't get invited back to community gatherings. Dating apps didn't have any of that.”
Community is the mantra for Luna's company, Bloom Community, an app based around events aimed predominantly, but not exclusively, at ethically non-monogamous, queer, wellness, and edge-of-culture communities. "When I started Bloom, it was with the desire to help people connect authentically, to serve these underserved groups and do it in a very community-minded way. It's about embracing community values and putting them out there, saying what they are, and then actually holding people accountable to them."
Luna had always wanted to start her own company, having been raised in a family of small business owners. “My mom, who was an executive at a pre-internet database company, was so ahead of her time in business and always pushed ahead, no matter what was in her way. I grew up with the model of what a strong woman looked like.” While her vision of what kind of business she would run has evolved over time, operating in the community space and building social products has always been Luna’s passion.
Prior to embarking on Bloom Community, Luna worked in social media at Instagram, where she led user acquisition. After several years, she chose to leave for two reasons. "I saw what was missing was helping people connect really deeply and authentically. Our social feeds are often optimised, unfortunately, for divisive content, which turns on our ‘fight or flight’ response and shuts down our empathetic pathways, reducing our capacity for authentic, vulnerable connection. I also observed that for many groups pushing the boundary of culture, the algorithms aren't always as friendly as they are to other groups."
The 'Facebook Files' investigation was also a key factor in her decision to launch Bloom. "When that came out, people were asking a lot of questions, and there was mounting evidence that social media wasn't always positive for people's mental health. I'm the sort of person who is unable to separate my work life and personal life, and so for me, building a company where I can actually live my values is me living my truth and saying, ‘hey, I just want more of this in the world, so I'm going to make it happen.’"
BUILDING SAFE SPACES FOR UNDERSERVED GROUPS. For Luna and Bloom Community, those values are consent, communication and respect. Bloom's events are wide-ranging, from comedy shows to park meetups to BDSM educational classes, craft days, and camping. "We hear personal stories all the time of people who have met partners, roommates and friends through Bloom. Recently a woman who turned 21 during the pandemic went to her first Bloom event, a queer club night, and told us it was the first time she had felt real safety. Those kinds of stories still leave me speechless."
Luna's CV is impressive – two MIT degrees along with her aforementioned experience at Facebook, Instagram and several other major corporations – and that’s helped her secure funding from YCombinator, Tuesday VC, Precursor Ventures, and an impressive list of angels from leading social tech platforms. Luna has always looked for investors who are “values aligned” with Bloom Community. "I'm building software for communities in an underserved space, and there are VCs that understand that. I’m grateful we’ve found the right investors that are here for our journey."
Two years after launching Bloom, its members have given Luna the title 'Mother of Bloom,' often recognizing her at their events and sharing their love and appreciation for the platform. "Normally, when you work on software, you don't get that, but being out in the world and actually seeing the impact of Bloom first-hand has been hugely meaningful in my life. There's really nothing like it."