“When women fight for a higher salary, they can often feel guilty. When men fight for more pay, they feel empowered. I’ve always wanted to encourage women to go after the money they deserve.”
-Whitney Wolfe Herd (Founder & CEO, Bumble)
A woman of power empowers other women, one of such women is Whitney Wolfe Herd, an American entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of the famous dating app, Bumble. Whitney has joined Forbes list of the super-rich. Whitney, 31 is now the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire after she took Bumble public in February. The net worth of the woman behind the dating giant, Bumble is 130 Crores USD as of 2021.
She rang the Nasdaq bell, opening of a security exchange trading market with her 18-month-old baby son on her hip. In her speech, Whitney expressed that she wanted to make the internet “a kinder, more accountable place”.
WHITNEY’S RISE TO THE BILLIONAIRE CLUB
A company serving women and led by women has made its 31-year-old female founder a billionaire. Whitney’s rise to membership in the billionaires’ club has been a fascinating one.
Before starting with Bumble, she was one of the members of the founding team at Tinder but after tensions with other executives – one of whom she had been dating – she left. Sometime later, Whitney registered a sexual harassment case. The parent company of Tinder, Match Group Inc, denied the claims but paid around $1m to settle the dispute. As a result of the case, she experienced a lot of online abuse, leading her to delete her Twitter account because of the hate she faced. Whitney used her personal experience to build her application, Bumble. Bumble is all about putting women in control and giving women a lead in the dating world. Bumble is different from other dating apps as it centers around women as only they can make the first move.
“The importance of a woman making the first move is not exclusive to the world of dating, romance, or love,” Herd says.
The main and significant focus of her app is that only women can initiate a conversation in heterosexual matches. It sounds like a simple idea but one that makes a world of difference to those on the dating scene who have been bombarded with unwanted and unsolicited messages from men.
Whitney founded Bumble with the assistance of an early investor Russian billionaire Andrey Adreev, who also has a stake in Badoo (a dating social network), both of which he sold in November 2019.
Herd owns an 11.6% stake in Bumble, resulting in an estimated net worth of $1.3bn. She also heads Badoo which is owned by Bumble Inc. Badoo and Bumble have a combined 40 million users and 2.4 million of whom pay for a subscription. Bumble could generate $376.6 million of revenue in the first nine months of 2020. In the same time period in 2019, it brought in revenue of $362.6 million and calculated a net profit of $68.6 million.
Whitney Wolfe Herd grew up in Utah and in an interview, after Bumble went public, she spoke openly about the abusive relationship she was in as a teenager, and how it “stripped her down to nothing” while also “informing her understanding of what was wrong with gender dynamics”.
TURNING HER VISION INTO A BILLION-DOLLAR BRAND
Whitney expressed that she felt surreal when she became the youngest woman ever to take a company public, two hours after Bumble’s soaring stock price made her a billionaire, she became one of the top female CEOs in tech. To be very precise she created one of the largest dating apps in the world despite facing humiliation from media all around the world, a woman’s success is always doubted and questioned, people try to connect her worth with her past experiences. She was also disturbed by the way her story was being told. Her success at Bumble, known for being the dating app where women “make the first move,” had now made her the Kill Bill or villain of the tech world. People regarded it as a place where women sought vengeance or tried to gain control and dominance. The media and everyone around was more focused on her experience years ago as a co-founder at the dating app Tinder, where Wolfe Herd was allegedly harassed by an executive who was also her boyfriend, got dumped and expelled from the company, and went on to sue for sexual harassment. On the day she was supposed to be talking about how she built her empire and celebrating it, Wolfe Herd found herself describing the men she had endured before building it.
WHITNEY’S IDEA AND CONTRIBUTION
Whitney started the ‘female-first’ dating app in 2014 after leaving the executive role at Tinder, which she sued for sexual harassment. In her allegations, she made it clear that her former boss and also her boyfriend Justin Mateen had threatened to strip her of her title of being the co-founder of Tinder because of their personal disputes. The company debunked these allegations and the matter was later settled.
Coming on to the statistics, there are about 559 companies that have gone public in the US over the past 12 months, only two, aside from Bumble, were founded by women. These numbers clearly indicate that women are largely being left behind in what’s likely the fastest wealth-creation boom in history. The team of Bumble and investors described this growth as a huge win, they believe that Whitney saw an opportunity that wasn’t being addressed for women, and with her expertise, she has made this into a gold mine, not just for her and her team but for her investors as well.
Whitney’s experience was formative. She initially wanted to start with a female-only social network for women to send each other compliments but ended up focusing on match-making on the advice of Russian tech billionaire Andrey Andreev, the founder of dating app Badoo, which clearly worked out for her betterment. Women in the startup world are hugely confident about a rising tide.
Whitney’s success will help further the case for investing in businesses that cater to a female audience or that are founded by women. Her journey of building an impactful brand out of her vision of making women’s voices heard is all a result of her dedication and growing stronger with her past experiences.