Some users of Bumble, Whitney Wolfe Herd’s dating app, are lucky enough to swipe right and find love, a new friend or a job opportunity. Wolfe Herd, though, may be the luckiest of all: The app, which Forbes values at $1 billion, has brought its 29-year-old founder a $230 million fortune. While Wolfe Herd missed the cut for this year’s Forbes list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women, Forbes predicts it won’t be too long before she joins the ranks, assuming Bumble keeps growing at the rate it has.
Bumble’s biggest competitor is Tinder, founded in 2012 as one of the first “swiping” dating apps,using a customer’s location to find matches. Wolfe Herd actually helped build what is now her adversary. She cofounded Tinder, but left the company in 2014, claiming sexual harassment by her cofounder and ex-boyfriend Justin Mateen. Mateen was suspended from Tinder, and Wolfe Herd settled for a reported $1 million.
“I was being told the ugliest things by complete strangers, and they were having full debates about me. I wasn’t running for office. I wasn’t trying to be on a reality show. I was just a girl who left somewhere,” Wolfe Herd told Forbes last year. “I was broken.”
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She originally had no plans to go back into the world of online dating and was instead keen on founding an online social space for women. She pitched the idea to Russian billionaire and the founder of dating app Badoo Andrey Andreev, who didn’t jump at the concept, but did love Wolfe Herd’s “passion and energy.” Andreev, who had met her while she was at Tinder, thought she should stick to her area of expertise: dating apps. The two met in London–where Andreev lives–more than a dozen times before Wolfe Herd came up with the idea for Bumble.
“What if women make the first move, send the first message? And if they don’t, the match disappears after 24 hours, like in Cinderella, the pumpkin and the carriage?,” Wolfe Herd told Forbes last year. “It’d be symbolic of a Sadie Hawkins dance–going after it, girls ask first. What if we could hardwire that into a product?”
Andreev agreed to put up an initial $10 million for approximately 79% of the company and also let Wolfe Herd tap into Badoo’s software and systems. Wolfe Herd, who got about 20%, brought her marketing know-how and women-first idea, Bumble was born in December 2014. Within its first month, the app had 100,000 downloads.
Putting women in control is just a small part of Bumble’s feminist approach to dating. The company’s billboards read “Be the CEO your parents always wanted you to marry,” and “We’re not playing the field, we’re leveling it.” In 2016, Bumble launched BFF, an app that is meant to help women find friends, not dates. Last year, it followed up with Bizz, another take on the app focused women meeting others for the purpose of career networking. The company has started to host events targeting women, as well as pop-up meeting spaces across the country with programming like “Practice your pitch” and “How to build a career with meaning.” All of this has contributed to its loyal and growing user base.
Only four years old and with more than 35 million users, Bumble has become America’s fastest-growing dating app with users growing 70% year-over-year. With about 10% of them paying $9.99 per month for in-app perks and a advertisements launching last year, the company brought in $100 million in revenue in 2017. Forbes values the company at over $1 billion.
The buzz around Bumble and the revenue it started to collect drew notice. In 2017, Match Group–the dating conglomerate that owns Match.com, OKCupid and Tinder–offered to purchase Bumble for $450 million. Wolfe Herd turned down that offer, as well as Match’s follow up offer of over $1 billion. The companies remained in talks until February this year.
No deal was made, and in March, Match sued Bumble, calling the app a “Tinder-clone” and claiming patent and trademark infringement, as well as the misuse of trade secrets. In response, Bumble filed a suit of its own, demanding $400 million in damages and claiming that Match’s lawsuit was “frivolous” and served to “chill the market for an investment in Bumble.”
While the lawsuits are ongoing, one thing remains clear: Bumble is only growing. Since the legal drama began, the app has gained over 5 million users.
All that growth takes up quite a lot of Wolfe Herd’s time. As she said last year: “I just don’t harbor resentment toward anything or anywhere or anyone — I’m too busy.”
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