Making All Her Own Moves: the Whitney Wolfe Herd Story

Nithusa Sinnadurai, Staff Writer

On February 11th, 2021, history was made as Whitney Wolfe Herd, CEO of the popular dating-app Bumble, became the youngest, self-made, female billionaire. At the age of 31, Wolfe has achieved such extreme success, yet her road to prosperity was definitely not an easy path. 

After graduating from Southern Methodist University, Wolfe was faced with the same question most graduates find themselves asking, “What’s next?”. During a dinner with Sean Rad, who later went on to co-found Tinder, Wolfe offered to work for him as he planned on setting up an app about consumer loyalty. Although plans to start-up the app fell through, Wolfe decided to focus her energy on an app which was a side project that was developed during a weekend hackathon. The billionaire was nearly positive that this app would be a huge success amongst college students. Her resilience to go above and beyond resulted in nearly her whole campus downloading the app now known as Tinder, and she was eventually the Vice-President of Marketing for the innovative app.

Her life took a drastic turn in 2014 when she filed a lawsuit against Tinder co-founders, Sean Rad and Justin Mateen for sexual harassment. Wolfe revealed she was harassed for the majority of her employment. Wolfe explained that she was denied the title of co-founder as there would be “too many co-founders”, and that it would be considered inappropriate for her to be declared a co-founder of a “hookup app” like Tinder. It was also revealed that alongside enduring the derogatory slurs thrown at her by ex-boyfriend, Manteen, she was also forced to resign from her position at Tinder. Despite receiving over $1 million in settlement, Wolfe still faced harassment, but this time from the public. In an interview at Elevate Tech Fest, the self-made billionaire revealed she was constantly scrutinized by articles accusing her of lying, making various assumptions about her character and received several threats online. Wolfe recalled how this act of injustice tore her down, leaving her in a dark place for a really, long time. 

In a moment of vulnerability, Wolfe decided to make another social media network called Merci; a female-only platform meant for women to lift others up with compliments. Impressed by her passion and work-ethic even as Wolfe worked at Tinder back in 2013, Andrey Andreev, an affluent Russian entrepreneur attempted to recruit Wolfe as his Chief Marketing Officer for his dating site called Badoo. Staying true to her goals, she rejected his initial job offer but pitched her idea of Merci. Wolfe was adamant about starting her own company and Andreev was on-board with Merci but suggested a twist; to make Merci into a dating-site while sticking to a woman-focused brand. After some initial hesitation Wolfe was on board, but she realized how there are several other women who were in the same shoes as her. She recalled, “I always wanted to have a scenario where the guy didn’t have my number but I had his […] 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?” This idea was implemented and Merci, now known as Bumble, was launched in December of 2014, reaching 100,000 downloads within it’s first month. 

Fast-forward to February, 11th, 2021, and Bumble made its debut as a publicly traded company on NASDAQ. Bumble gained nearly $2.2 billion from it’s shareholders during its Initial Public Offering. Thanks to Wolfe’s 11.6% share in the company she has now become both youngest female CEO and billionaire to lead a U.S corporation into a public company. Wolfe believes that if you are good at what you’re passionate about and make it into a business,  “You can monetize anything”. Wolfe continues to stay true to her values and passions by continuing to break misgynotics mindsets both in the industry and internationally as she introduces Bumble to India. Whitney Wolfe Herd is a pioneer in her own right, and is living proof that anything is possible as long as you make the first move.

Photo by CoWomen, Unsplash

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