Who is Whitney Wolfe Herd? The founder of the Bumble app becomes the 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 most high-profile tech IPOs of the year yet, in what will be a defining moment not just for her company but for founders in general.
Bumble, best known for its female-centric dating app, began trading on the Nasdaq Thursday under the ticker symbol “BMBL”.
Bumble valued its stock at US $ 43 on Wednesday night, up from its initially proposed price range of US $ 28 to US $ 30, signaling strong investor demand in what has proven to be a noble market. for new public technology companies.
Shares surged immediately after trading, opening at US $ 76, a 77 percent increase.
At 31, she is considered one of the youngest self-made female billionaires of all time.
The company was founded in 2014 by Wolfe Herd, who started his career with another dating service, Tinder. She first set out to build a female-focused social network before landing on the concept of a female-focused dating app.
Bumble requires women looking for heterosexual matches 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 took off. 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 controlling 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 parent company Bumble at $ 3 billion.
Bumble’s public offering follows several successful tech IPOs. Airbnb and DoorDash have each soared 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 go public, following in the footsteps of Katrina Lake, the founder and CEO of Stitch Fix, who was 34 when she saw her. company when it went public.
“You don’t have to be a type of person to be successful in business or the tech industry,” Wolfe Herd told CNN Business in an interview Thursday.
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“I have really always tried to build what I wish to exist, what I wish could help improve the lives of the women I care about and the people I love, and I think that doesn’t always have to follow. the same path. “
Sarah Kunst, managing director of venture capital firm Cleo Capital and former senior advisor to Bumble, told CNN Business that Wolfe Herd’s IPO sets a significant example for other founders who don’t fit the mold of this what a “technological entrepreneur”. generally looks like.
Wolfe Herd’s success story flies in the face of the idea that “you can only credibly start a business if you have several prestigious degrees.” [and] all good experience, “Kunst said.” She played this game on her own terms. “
Wolfe Herd has gone to great lengths to differentiate his business – by publicly slamming and blocking a misogynistic user, banning gun photos, and reporting obscene images sent via direct messages on his app.
At the end of last month, the company updated its terms and conditions to ban bodily humiliation.
She has also used her profile to influence issues relating to women 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 brought Bumble to this point is important in the larger drive to diversify the venture capital and startup ecosystem so that men – and especially white men – aren’t the only big beneficiaries and keepers.
“It’s not just me, I built this with a large team… but I think anyone can be here if they stick with what they’re trying to accomplish,” said Wolfe Herd. “It is time there were more women in leadership positions, on boards of directors, receiving capital and funding.”
Pam Kostka, CEO of the nonprofit focused on diversity in technology, All Raise, told CNN Business that “Whitney and the Bumble IPO is a herald of this evolution.”
“There’s going to be a different kind of wealth building from this IPO,” Kostka said, “and what will people do with that wealth?”