Whitney Wolfe Herd is the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire and the youngest woman ever to take a company to IPO. As founder of dating and business connection app Bumble (NASDAQ:BMBL), Wolfe Herd has a remarkable tale to tell.
“At 31, Wolfe Herd is the youngest female CEO ever to lead a company to an IPO, according to Business Insider.”
A Wolfe of Wall Street with a charitable heart,
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wolfe Herd travelled extensively in her younger years and developed a strong sense of right and wrong.
At 20, she started her first business selling tote bags made from bamboo. This was to highlight the damage done by the BP oil spill. With celebrity endorsement she launched the ‘Help Us Project’, a not-for-profit designed to support areas affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Following this, she set up another charitable business called Tender Heart. This was a clothing line designed to increase awareness of human trafficking and fair trade. On leaving university she also spent time working in orphanages abroad.
At 22 she joined Hatch Labs, a start-up incubator. This quickly led her to transition to the development team for the dating app Tinder. It is believed Wolfe Herd came up with the name for Tinder herself.
Two years later, in 2014, she left the company under a cloud. This was a difficult period for Wolfe Herd as she publicly brought a lawsuit against Tinder, alleging “atrocious sexual harassment and sex discrimination”. The accusations included a pattern of “threatening and abusive” behaviour from her former boss and ex-boyfriend Justin Mateen.
The company denied the accusations and settled out of court. Wolfe Herd reportedly received around $1 million to settle the case. Putting the unpleasantness behind her, she threw her enthusiasm and energy into a new venture.
And so, Bumble began, built on an ethos of kindness and equality.
What is Bumble?
According to its website, Bumble is a dating app that has changed the way people date, find friends, and the perception of meeting online, for the better. Its unique selling point is that Women make the first move. While this is a novel concept in the world of dating, the app also extends this premise into the world of business and networking with strangers.
Bumble is not simply a dating app; it also owns Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF. On Bumble Bizz, you can pursue a career change, meet collaborators, or become a mentor. Meanwhile, Bumble BFF provides a 21st century way to create meaningful friendships.
Based in Austin, Texas, Bumble was initially funded by Russian billionaire Andreey Andreev, the founder of online dating site Badoo. In 2019 he sold his stake in both companies and Whitney Wolfe Herd took the helm at Badoo, which is now owned by Bumble.
What makes Whitney Wolfe Herd tick?
In her younger years Wolfe Herd had a strong vision and determination to reshape the internet. To create a space and platform on the premise of empowering users to behave well and be kind to one another. It was from this idea that Bumble emerged.
The name was dreamt up from the idea of the Queen (Bumble) bee buzzing around her hive. So, with women taking charge, it immediately hands the reins of equality to the females.
Having worked at Tinder, Wolfe Herd knew the dating culture well, but she’d seen a hugely negative side to it. In line with her dream of reshaping the internet into a safer, more equal place, the scene for Bumble’s progression was set. She truly believed that by championing women to feel safer through a platform designed to be safe, it would naturally create a more respectful dating space.
Speaking in a Disrupt interview in 2018, Wolfe Herd said:
The more we empower the women on our platform, the safer the space becomes, the more enjoyable the space becomes and the more evangelised the brand becomes. Then, the more attractive it actually becomes to men. Because what people are actually doing on this platform is connecting. And if you alienate the women and you make this something that women are not going to enjoy, then why would men enjoy that? So, it’s somewhat of a no-brainer.
Encouraging positive behaviour
In response to bad or disrespectful behaviour on the app, Bumble encourages the public reporting of such actions. This comes in the form of open letters and banning people permanently from the platform.
However, there’s a fine line to walk between public shaming and accountability, so it’s not an easy task to take on. But Wolfe Herd is determined in her vision and belief that drawing attention to bad behaviour encourages people to want to behave better in the long run.
She is confident that Bumble’s mission to stay in line with its core values is enough to help the business thrive. These core values are simply: accountability, kindness, equality, empowerment, and growth.
A mere seven years after its humble beginnings, Bumble is an outstanding success. And Whitney Wolfe Herd a shining example of what’s possible for women in the world today.
Wolfe Herd is married to a Texan oil heir Michael Herd, whom she met on an Aspen skiing trip in 2013. They have a young son named Bobby and two dogs.
An exceptional role model for young women
According to Bloomberg, of the 500 wealthiest people in the world, fewer than 5% are self-made women. That may be a depressing statistic, but Wolfe Herd’s success shows the beginning of what could be meaningful change in this regard. Forbes estimates her net worth at approximately $1.5 billion.
Shares in Bumble soared close to 80% on their debut and Wolfe Herd has an 11.6% stake in the company, owning 21.54 million shares.
As well as supporting various charities on her way up, she has actively supported the Me Too movement (#MeToo). She’s also led the way in campaigning for an overhaul of laws to protect people from digital threats, such as the sharing of indecent images.
Gritty and determined, she’s accomplished a lot in her 31 years on earth and overcome some challenging periods. Her story is an inspiring journey for young women everywhere. Best of all, she shows how resilience and kindness can pave the way to a deeply rewarding future.