How Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd became self-made female billionaire

Whitney Wolfe Herd just became the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire with her Bumble dating app’s initial public offering on the US stock market — and she did it after ending some awkward relationships.

The 31-year-old chief executive founded Bumble as a female-focused app in 2014 after leaving Tinder, where she had sued her fellow co-founders for sexual harassment and discrimination.

On Friday, Bumble’s value swelled to $US8.7 billion ($A11.2 million) after the company’s stock surged 63 per cent to $US70.31 ($A90.55) in its Thursday market debut.

Wolfe Herd’s 21.5 million Bumble shares, equal to a 12 per cent stake, are now worth more than $US1.5 billion ($A1.9 million), making Wolfe Herd the world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire, according to Forbes.

Aside from her newly acquired billionaire status, Wolfe Herd is also the youngest female chief executive to take a company public in America — and has more than doubled her previous net worth, which was reportedly $US575 million ($A740 million), according to Forbes.

In 2012, after graduating from Southern Methodist University in Dallas with a degree in international studies, Wolfe Herd co-founded and became the vice president of marketing for Tinder, according to her LinkedIn account.

While studying, she had already launched her first business at 19, called Help Us Get Cleaned Up Project and also raised funds after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 by selling tote bags designed by Patrick Aufdenkamp.

Wolfe Herd filed a sexual harassment suit against Tinder alleging that co-founder Justin Mateen repeatedly called her a “whore”.

Ex-Tinder CEO Sean Rad likewise subjected Wolfe Herd to “a barrage of horrendously sexist, racist, and otherwise inappropriate comments, emails and text messages,” according to Wolfe’s explosive complaint.

Those included Rad’s allegedly texting Wolfe Herd a drawing of his billionaire boss Barry Diller’s initials “BD” to form a “d–k pic,” sources told The Post at the time. The suit was reportedly settled for more than $US1 million ($A740 million) with Tinder denying any wrongdoing, despite the fact that Mateen and Rad left soon after.

Wolfe also claimed she was stripped of her co-founder title at Tinder after Mateen said having a female co-founder “makes the company seem like a joke” and “devalues” the company’s business.

What’s lesser known than the sordid Tinder saga, however, is the fact that Wolfe Herd subsequently jumped into a strange business relationship with Andrey Andreev, the Russian tech tycoon who helped launch the business in 2014.

Andreev was accused of overseeing a seamy, hedonistic office culture at Bumble’s sister app, Badoo, which he launched in 2006. More than a dozen ex-Badoo staffers told Forbes in 2019 that the company held wild parties — including one where “everyone was naked and doing lines of coke” — and that female employees were frequently objectified.

Some of the reported allegations were particularly stomach-churning. Another employee claimed that a video circulated around the company of a male Badoo employee receiving oral sex from a prostitute, with one female employee saying she was pressured by male colleagues into watching it.

Badoo denied that such a video existed.

While most of the antics reportedly took place before Andreev teamed up with Wolfe Herd, the allegations clashed with Bumble’s ethos of empowering women in romantic relationships. The app’s defining feature is that only women can initiate chats with male mates. (If you’re looking for a same-sex match, either person can reach out first.)

Wolfe Herd, who at the time had a 20 per cent stake in Bumble compared with Andreev’s majority stake, had defended her business partner, saying he was like family and a best friend to her.

“What I’ve seen firsthand from Andrey is creative and motivating behaviour,” Wolfe Herd said. “Andrey has never been anything but kind and respectful to me.”

Nevertheless, after controversies surrounding the Forbes story, Andreev gave up his stake in Bumble last year to Blackstone, the private-equity titan that remains the company’s largest shareholder. The revised IPO prospectus Bumble filed this week gave a nod to Andreev’s role in its formation.

“When launching Bumble, we did so together with Andrey Andreev and his company Badoo, one of the pioneers of web and mobile dating products, in order to achieve the most impact and reach possible,” Wolfe Herd wrote in a letter included in the filing. “Bumble leveraged Badoo’s global scale, eight years of experience and robust resources.”

Wolfe Herd is married to an oil heir and has a son named Bobby.

Texas-based Bumble closed its first trading day well above the $US43 a share price ($A55) it had set for the $US2.2 billion ($A2.8 billion) offering, making it the latest in a string of big-name tech firms including Airbnb and Doordash to capitalise on a hot IPO market.

Bumble also owns the dating app Badoo. Together, the apps are used in 150 countries with tens of millions of monthly subscribers, Forbes reported.

This story was originally published on the New York Post and is republished here with permission

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