Whitney Wolfe Herd SuccessStory
Even during the Internet’s early years, dating sites were always popular. Fast forward today, although millions of people still find potential partners through these traditional dating sites, a good chunk of singles have already shifted to using dating apps. Two of the most popular dating apps, Tinder and Bumble, have a combined 77 million active users in the U.S. The numbers are impressive for the two apps, but what’s more impressive is that there is one person that was highly involved in the development of the two dating platforms: Whitney Wolfe Herd. At only 32 years old, she has launched two companies and is already one the richest female entrepreneurs on the planet.
Whitney Wolfe Herd was born in Salt Lake City in the state of Utah, United States on July 1, 1989. Her father Michael Wolfe was a property developer while her mother Kelly was a homemaker. She moved to Paris, France when was in fourth grade but returned to the U.S. to finish her college education.
Herd previously attended the Judge Memorial Catholic School before moving to France. In college, she enrolled in the Southern Methodist University in Dallas County, Texas and majored in international studies. She was also a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
At around the same time, Herd sold bamboo tote bags as part of charity for those affected by the BP oil spill in 2010. She then partnered with celebrity stylist Patrick Aufdenkamp to launch a non-profit called the "Help Us Project." After the success of the Help Us Project, Herd and Aufdenkamp then launched another non-profit business called “Tender Heart”, a clothing line that helped raise awareness for human trafficking and fair trade. Herd gained national recognition for her tote bags which were also worn by celebrities Rachel Zoe and Nicole Richie. After graduating, she traveled to Southeast Asia to work with various orphanages.
After returning from her charity work, Herd worked in tech startup Hatch Labs where she was involved in the development of a fintech platform called Cardify and Tinder’s first prototype Matchbox. After Cardify was abandoned, she then joined former Cardify colleagues Sean Rad, Justin Mateen, and Jonathan Badeen who were now focused on developing Matchbox in the 2012 IAC startup incubator.
A few months later, Matchbox was renamed to Tinder and the app was officially launched. Herd was promoted as the company’s vice president of marketing. Herd would work in Tinder for two years and of her many achievements nothing would be more significant than being the person who actually named the company as well as designed Tinder’s flame logo. According to Herd, she drew inspiration from an actual “tinder” which is a combustible material used to start a fire. The flame also represents emotion, passion, and desire.
Tinder’s unique features, connecting potential partners through photos and short bios, became an instant hit. In less than a year it was launched, Tinder had become one of the top 25 social networking apps. It also became the first dating app in 10 years to fall in the top 5 of the web’s most utilized services.
Despite Tinder’s fast trajectory, it did not end up well for Herd with the company she helped build. In early 2014, she stepped down and filed sexual harassment and discrimination charges against company executives. It is reported she received more than $1 million plus stock as part of a settlement.
Bumble Co-founder and CEO
Although Herd did not intend to leave Tinder, a new opportunity would open up for the young entrepreneur. After news broke out of her resignation, she was contacted by Badoo founder Andrey Andreev to develop a dating app similar to Tinder. Andreev had been running Badoo since 2006 with the app already becoming one of the world’s largest dating networks. Andreev and Herd would then form a partnership and Bumble was launched in December 2014. Andreev initially invested $10 million in the company and took 80% ownership while Herd controlled 20% while being named as Bumble’s first-ever CEO. In other words, Andreev was originally listed as Bumble founder while Herd was the company’s co-founder and CEO.
The Bumble date app functions similarly to Tinder where users connect with other people through photos and short bios. But unlike Tinder, Bumble is more of a female-focused dating app that lets women make the first move. According to Herd, “Bumble empowers women by making the first move, resulting in a more balanced and mutually respectful relationship dynamic from the start.” Despite early skepticism, the app eventually found its footing and was attracting hundreds of users daily. By 2017, more than 22 million users were now using Bumble.
With Bumble’s popularity surging, Herd then realized that more features need to be implemented so that it can self itself apart from competitors most especially Tinder. The app soon introduced Bumble BFF for users looking to expand their social circle and Bumble Bizz for users looking for networking opportunities similar to LinkedIn. As of 2020, over 100 million users have signed up with the app currently having 42 million monthly active users. The company’s valuation also soared to nearly $8 billion after it went public in February 2021 with the Bumble IPO selling $76 per share on its first day of trading (up 77%) in the U.S. stock market.
Herd is no stranger to failures. Her rough patch at Tinder could have easily been a career-ending moment for other individuals but she managed to fight her way through difficult challenges and has now become the CEO of her own company. "Anybody can rebuild themselves just starting over, taking that first step, making the first move,” Herd said in a recent interview. After Bumble went public, she became the youngest self-made billionaire in the world and is only listed behind Susan Wojcicki (YouTube), Lisa Su (AMD), Lynsi Snyder (In-N-Out Burger), and Marillyn Hewson (Lockheed Martin) in terms of net worth for female CEOs. She was also listed in the 2018 Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 and the 2018 Time 100 lists.
Herd met her husband Michael while on a skiing trip in Aspen, Colorado. Michael Herd is the grandson of Bob Herd, the founder of Texas-based oil and natural gas firm Herd Producing Company, Inc. He is currently the vice president of the company which operates over 400 oil wells across Louisiana and East Texas. They married in 2017 and announced the birth of their first child two years later.
As Bumble’s value continues to rise, Whitney Wolfe Herd will continue to be an inspiration for not just female entrepreneurs but also for individuals intending to overcome difficult challenges.