- Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe Herd is the youngest female founder to take a company public.
- After a lawsuit with Tinder and a toxic relationship with a cofounder, she started over at 25.
- Wolfe Herd spent IPO day juggling work with mom duties.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
On Thursday afternoon, Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe Herd joined a Zoom call looking like any working mom. Wearing a black baseball hat in a cluttered room with baby bottles, water glasses, and soda cans scattered on a coffee table, Wolfe Herd tells Insider she’s tired from a “crazy, crazy day” and says being a mom is “harder than an IPO.”
But Wolfe Herd is not just any working mom. She is the latest CEO to join the billionaires club, and, at 31, she is the youngest female founder to take a company public.
And on Thursday, as shares of Bumble shot up 63% in its market debut, she remained, unapologetically, a mom first. In the morning, Wolfe Herd brought her 14-month-old with her as she rang the NASDAQ’s opening bell from Bumble’s Austin, Texas, office. In between scheduled TV interviews and reporter calls, she encouraged her son to take his first steps. And in the afternoon, she was 47 minutes late to this Insider interview because she didn’t want to miss bath time with her son, Bobby Lee “Bo” Herd II.
“Let me tell you, this has not been easy,” Wolfe Herd tells Insider. “It’s been really hard, and there’ve been a lot of challenges along the way, but our team’s dedication to our Northern star of trying to put women in the driver’s seat has really just kept us going.”
Wolfe Herd was born and raised in Salt Lake City, the daughter of a property developer and a housewife. She went on to attend Southern Methodist University, in Texas, where she studied international relations. While in school, she launched a small business selling bamboo tote bags to help those affected by the BP oil spill in 2010. Unlike other side hustles started by 19-year-olds in college, Wolfe Herd’s business took off, and became nationally known when celebrities Nicole Richie and Rachel Zoe were spotted wearing her tote bag.
After college, she traveled through Southeast Asia to volunteer at orphanages before settling in Los Angeles to start a job at the incubator Hatch Labs. In 2012, she met a group of entrepreneurs who wanted to build a new dating app called Tinder. She signed on as a cofounder and helped pioneer the modern, swipe-based dating app.
At first, Wolfe Herd was living the entrepreneur’s dream. She was cofounder and VP of marketing of a hot startup that was valued by Silicon Valley investors at about $750 million at that time. There was also a budding romance with her direct manager and fellow founder Justin Mateen. While the pair dated on and off for about a year, Wolfe Herd told Insider’s Alyson Shontell the relationship ended for good when he became “verbally controlling and abusive.”
She was later ousted from the company and sued Tinder and its parent company IAC alleging sexual harassment. Wolfe said in her suit that Tinder cofounder Justin Mateen sexually harassed her. She said she endured the harassment for most of the time she was employed at Tinder, Business Insider’s Alyson Shontell reported when Wolfe filed the lawsuit in 2014. She said Mateen’s actions after their breakup forced her to resign from Tinder. The suit has since been settled, netting Wolfe more than $1 million and stock in Tinder.
Looking back, while Wolfe Herd acknowledges that dark chapter in her life, she is also ready to move on. “Bumble is not here because of Tinder. Bumble is here because of its own right to be here,” Wolfe Herd tells Insider. “I wish Tinder nothing but the best, but this is the day that I reclaim my own narrative.”
A few years later, at age 25, she did start over, this time with a new dating app where women are empowered to make the first move. Wolfe Herd told Insider in a 2015 interview announcing the launch of the app that her decision to give the power to women first was inspired by the Sadie Hawkins dance. Since then, Bumble has expanded its product category to include Bumble BFF and Bumble Bizz. Wolfe Herd’s company generated $489 million in 2019 thanks to more than 42 million users. A potential partnership with Peanut, the social network for moms, is also something she’s also exploring.
“I think there is a natural evolution that women on their dating journeys find, which is motherhood, but that doesn’t mean we need to build a direct competitor,” Wolfe Herd tells Insider. “And maybe there’s a partnership down the road, who knows.”
With 21,537,552 shares of Bumble common stock, Wolfe Herd’s stake, at Friday’s close of market, is worth about $1.6 billion, making her not only a newly minted billionaire but also No. 22 on the short list of female founders who have successfully taken a company public. And while some CEOs are known to throw $10 million ragers or host elaborate dinners after an IPO, Wolfe Herd preferred a quiet evening at home with her family. After giving her baby a bath, she read him books and ate takeout sushi in sweatpants with her husband.
She carved out some time to go on the audio social-networking app Clubhouse and write an inspirational memo to employees. Insider obtained a copy of the
message, where Wolfe Herd wrote, “Tomorrow’s success isn’t promised, and it is our character and values that will hold us together through the up’s and the down’s ahead.”