THE JOURNEY OF A YOUNG WOMAN FROM ONE OF THE FOUNDING TEAM MEMBERS OF TINDER TO STARTING HER OWN COMPANY BUMBLE, THE FEMALE-FOCUSED DATING APP
Bumble, the dating app on which women make the first move, was first set up by Whitney Wolfe Herd, an American entrepreneur, with Russian billionaire Andrey Andreev in 2014.
After Bumble went public on February 11, 2021, Wolfe Herd, who holds an 11.6 percent stake in Bumble Inc. (as of February 2021), became the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world.
Wolfe Herd capitalised on an underserved market and created a multi-billion-dollar business that was born, in a way, from one of women entrepreneurs' most vexing barriers: sexual harassment. Wolfe Herd has described Bumble as a "feminist dating app".
Wolfe Herd was born to a wealthy property developer, Michael Wolfe, who was Jewish, and Kelly Wolfe, who was Catholic, in Salt Lake City, Utah. She attended Judge Memorial Catholic High School.
Wolfe Herd attended the Southern Methodist University, where she studied international studies and was a member of the sorority of Kappa Kappa Gamma. She began a business selling bamboo tote bags while in college at the age of 20 to support areas impacted by the BP oil spill. Wolfe Herd also worked with celebrity designer Patrick Aufdenkamp to create the "Help Us Project" non-profit organisation.
After celebrities such as Rachel Zoe and Nicole Richie were pictured with them, the bags received attention from the national press. Soon after, with Aufdenkamp, she launched a second company named "Tender Heart," a clothing line dedicated to raising awareness of human trafficking and fair trade.
Wolfe Herd entered Hatch Laboratories when she was 22 years old. Via Hatch, she became involved with the Cardify start-up, a project led by Sean Rad via the IAC incubator at Hatch Labs. The project was later abandoned, but in 2012, Wolfe Herd joined the development team inside the IAC start-up incubator for the dating app Tinder with Rad and Chris Gulczynski.
Wolfe Herd became Tinder's vice president of marketing. Reportedly, she was behind the name of the app, drawing inspiration from the flame logo and the concept of tinder, which is an easily combustible substance used to start a fire. She has also been credited with fueling its success and rising its user base on college campuses.
According to an article in Bloomberg: “(Whitney Wolfe) would go to chapters of her sorority, do her presentation, and have all the girls at the meetings install the app. Then she’d go to the corresponding brother fraternity — they’d open the app and see all these cute girls they knew. Tinder started off with less than 5,000 users before Whitney Wolfe made her trip, and had around 15,000 by the time she returned.”
Due to alleged sexual harassment by one of the co-founders, Wolfe Herd left the business in 2014. Wolfe Herd sued Tinder for sexual discrimination and harassment and settled for just over $1 million in September 2014.
Wolfe Herd moved to Austin, Texas, in December 2014, and founded Bumble, a dating app that was focused on women. Andrey Andreev, the founder of Badoo, approached her for developing a dating site.
The pair eventually formed a partnership in which Andreev would receive 79% ownership in the company following an initial investment of $10 million along with additional investments and Wolfe Herd would serve as founder, CEO and 20% owner.
Bumble was similar to Tinder in that it was a location-based dating app, but there was one key difference: Only women could make the first move in heterosexual matches.
Wolfe Herd used the same strategy that worked at Tinder: marketing the app to college campuses. Early on, Bumble gained traction at Auburn University and the University of Texas at Austin, the city where Bumble is based.
By the end of 2017, two years after launching, Bumble had amassed more than 22 million users and had been approached by Match Group, the company that owns Tinder, with an offer for a $450 million buyout. Bumble turned it down.
Bumble has since expanded beyond dating: first in 2016 with Bumble BFF, a service for finding platonic friendships; then in 2017 with Bumble Bizz, a service for professional networking.
By July 2020, Bumble announced it had reached 100 million users. Its parent company, MagicLab, was renamed Bumble and Wolfe Herd was named CEO of the whole company, overseeing 750 employees worldwide.
On February 11, with backing from Blackstone Group, Bumble Inc. priced its IPO of 50 million shares at $43, raising $2.2 billion. With this, Whitney who was 31 years old at the time, became the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. Her net worth was estimated at approximately $1.55 Billion by Forbes.
She recently said, “We’re profitable because of our commitment to engineering and authentic and genuine experience. Nobody, not in the physical world nor in the digital world, had ever built a technology platform or brand fully centred around women’s wants and needs. We identified this massive white space, and it has proven to be an incredible business model. This just proves that passion, purpose, and profit can coexist.”
An inspiration to all entrepreneurs and women across the globe, Whitney's journey shows that we can overcome any hurdle in life and always start afresh, even after an unpleasant experience.
What did you learn from the story of Bumble?
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