A female billionaire at the age of 31 and former co-founder and VP of Marketing at Tinder, Whitney Wolfe’s success story is straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster! But the reality is always stranger than fiction and Wolfe’s rise to entrepreneurial success happened with Bumble which now has over 50 million users across 150 countries! Here we bring you the journey of the Billion-dollar Bumble Queen and how she transformed her side hustle into success through her genius!
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Childhood and Education
Born on July 1, 1989, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Whitney Wolfe was brought up in a Jewish-Catholic family and her father, Michael Wolfe was a rich property developer while her mother Kelly Wolfe was a housewife. Wolfe was studying in the 4th Grade when she accompanied her parents on a sabbatical to Paris. She completed her schooling at Judge Memorial Catholic High School and then studied International Studies at Southern Methodist University. Her entrepreneurial skills became evident at the time when she was just 20 and opened her own charity business of bamboo tote bags to support regions impacted by the BP Oil Spill. The international celebrity stylist Patrick Aufdenkamp also partnered with Wolfe in this non-profit venture which came to be known as ‘Help Us Project’.
This was just the beginning of her interest in entrepreneurship and social work as many celebrities like Nicole Richie supported her bamboo tote bags. Wolfe then founded another venture focused on clothing with Aufdenkamp which she named Tender Heart and aimed at bringing awareness on the issues of human trafficking and fair trade practices. Once she completed her university years, she went on to work in orphanages across Southeast Asia.
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The Think-Tank at Tinder!
Wolfe was working with Hatch Labs when got to know about Justin Mateen and Sean Rad who were then working together on different tech startups and she impressed them with her marketing skills. This led to her joining their 5-member team which later founded Tinder, an online dating app, in September 2012.
The name ‘Tinder’ was Wolfe’s brainchild and she played a greater role in popularizing the app across the college campuses. But facing sexism in the tech industry, she found herself in a big public drama as Justin Mateen called her derogatory names and her relationship with both Mateen and Rad worsened. Leaving Tinder amidst ominous circumstances, Wolfe filed a lawsuit against the company for sexual harassment, and later recalled her experience commenting, “I don’t wish for anyone to go through that, especially right as you’re turning 25.”
Making an Unforgettable Comeback
Ready to make a classic comeback like a bosswoman, Whitney Wolfe strived to build a woman-centric social media portal. She met with an old acquaintance, Andrey Andreev, and discussed the same with him, adding that “I’m starting a company, and I don’t want to be in dating”.
Andreev suggested that she utilise her professional experience and combine the idea with the concept of online dating. After the Tinder lawsuit was settled in 2014, Andrey invested $10 million for the women-oriented online dating platform taking 79% of the company and leaving 20% and the CEO position for Whitney Wolfe. The platform was then named Merci.
Wolfe stumbled on the revolutionary idea of Bumble later on when she realised that giving the power of the first move to women can make their platform unique!
“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? It’d be symbolic of a Sadie Hawkins dance–going after it, girls ask first. What if we could hardwire that into a product?”
After considering several names, both of them settled on the name, Bumble. The platform was launched in December 2014.
The Queen Bee of Bumble
Whitney Wolfe worked her marketing magic once more, and the app was a hit in no time. Wolfe also admitted later that she faced online abuse and threats after the sexual harrassment trial and its settlement and decided to go back to her family. She experienced panic attacks and paranoia and even deleted her twitter and that’s when the idea of the app Merci (which later became Bumble) as a positive online dating platform came to her mind. Bumble focused essentially on the concept of “by women, for women.” which set it apart from dating sites.
“I just don’t harbor resentment toward anything or anywhere or anyone — I’m too busy.”
Bumble first went live in December 2014 and clocked in 100,000 downloads and in 2017, 85% of its workforce constituted of women. Wolfe utilised many inventive strategize to make it popular from taglines like “You’re a Queen Bee,” “Be the CEO Your Parents Always Wanted You to Marry” and “Make the First Move” to banning unsolicited male photos on the app.
Recently, Priyanka Chopra and Serena Williams became the star investors in Bumble and in a span of 6 years, in the year 2020, over 100 million users had registered on the application worldwide.
Now a supermom, Whitney Wolfe decided to make the company public in February 2021 and it was a historical moment for NASDAQ as Bumble raised over 2 billion$ in an initial public offering. The world of investors have fallen in love with the unique idea of the women-go-first dating app which led to its shares charting high and the company now values at $8.3 billion.
The Queen Bee of Bumble, Whitney Wolfe’s entrepreneurial spirit is indomitable and it’s her determination and focus on innovation that made it an international success! We hope that her success story inspired you towards achieving your wildest dreams! Follow us at Leverage Edu for more such engaging and interesting content and check out our latest series ‘Her Vision’ bringing ‘62 Ultimate Stories of Inspiration!