Who is Whitney Wolfe Herd? Bumble App Founder Becomes New Self-Made Billionaire
Whitney Wolfe Herd is not based in Silicon Valley. She doesn’t have a STEM degree and she hasn’t raised billions in venture capital.
But Wolfe Herd’s company Bumble is set to have one of the highest-profile tech IPOs of the year so far, in what will be a watershed moment not just for her company, but for female founders in general. .
Bumble, best known for its female-centric dating app, began trading on the Nasdaq on Thursday under the ticker symbol “BMBL”.
Bumble priced its stock at US$43 on Wednesday evening, up from its initial proposed price range of US$28 to US$30, signaling strong investor demand in what turned out to be a high market for newly opened technology companies.
Shares jumped immediately after trading, opening at US$76, a 77% increase.
At 31, she is believed to be one of the youngest self-made female billionaires of all time.
The company was founded in 2014 by Wolfe Herd, who started his career at another dating service, Tinder. She first set out to create a female-focused social network before landing on the concept of a female-focused dating app.
Bumble requires women looking for heterosexual partners to take the first step, the idea being that this feature would allow women to make their own choices.
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The idea caught on. Austin-headquartered Bumble has become a household name even as it competes in a crowded market for dating apps.
It also now offers services beyond dating, including professional networking (Bumble Bizz) and finding new friends (Bumble BFF).
Investment firm Blackstone bought a majority stake in Bumble’s parent company from Russian billionaire Andrey Andreev in 2019.
The parent company also includes Badoo, a popular digital dating service outside the United States, founded by Andreev in 2006. The Blackstone deal valued Bumble, the parent company, at $3 billion.
Bumble’s public offering follows several successful tech IPOs. Airbnb and DoorDash each skyrocketed in their recent public market debuts and continue to trade well above their IPO prices.
Unlike many other tech companies, the majority of Bumble’s board is made up of women.
At 31, Wolfe Herd will become one of the youngest female tech CEOs to take her company public, following in the footsteps of Katrina Lake, the founder and CEO of Stitch Fix, who was 34 when she saw her company. through its IPO.
“You don’t have to be any type of person to be successful in business or in the tech industry,” Wolfe Herd told CNN Business in an interview Thursday.
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“I’ve really always tried to build what I wish to exist, what I wish could help improve the lives of the women I love and the people I love, and I think that doesn’t always have to follow the same path.”
Sarah Kunst, managing director of startup venture capital firm Cleo Capital and former senior adviser to Bumble, told CNN Business that Wolfe Herd’s IPO sets a meaningful example for other founders who don’t fit the mold. of what a “technological entrepreneur” is. generally looks like.
Wolfe Herd’s success story goes against the idea that “you can only credibly start a business if you have several prestigious degrees. [and] all the good experience,” Kunst said. “She played this game on her own terms.”
Wolfe Herd has worked to differentiate her business — from publicly slamming and blocking a misogynistic user to banning gun photos and reporting obscene images sent via direct messages on her app.
Late last month, the company updated its terms and conditions to ban body shaming.
She has also used her profile to weigh in on women’s issues and the digital world. In 2019, she and Bumble successfully advocated for a new Texas law banning digital sexual harassment.
The fact that Wolfe Herd got Bumble at this point is significant in the broader push to diversify the venture capital and startup ecosystem so that men — and especially white men — aren’t the only big beneficiaries. and guards.
“It’s not just me, I’ve built this with a large team…but I think anyone can be here if they stay true to what they’re trying to achieve,” Wolfe Herd said. “It’s time for more women to be in leadership positions, on boards, receiving capital and funding.”
Pam Kostka, CEO of All Raise, a nonprofit focused on diversity in tech, told CNN Business that “Whitney and the Bumble IPO are a herald of this breakthrough.”
“There’s going to be a different kind of wealth creation from this particular IPO,” Kostka said, “and what will people do with that wealth?”