The Tangled Path to Success of Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe
Boldness, determination, and a fighting spirit.
These are just a few of the things Whitney Wolfe projected while fighting her way up the tech ladder.
From being one of the first people that swiped left and right at Tinder, to building her own dating app empire, Whitney is living proof that women can do it all!
But it took a lot of time and sacrifice before the first Bumble flew free.
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Whitney Wolfe was born in 1989, in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was raised in a classic, modest household, making her upbringing nothing out of the ordinary. Whitney was enrolled in the Southern Methodist University where she majored in international studies. As a student, she was outgoing and social with her peers - a trait she would benefit greatly from later in life.
Just like any young individual, she found herself at a crossroads after graduating, evaluating her options. Whitney didn’t want the 9-to-5 lifestyle her friends were going after, but was unsure about what she really wanted. Not long after her graduation, she went to Southeast Asia, where she worked in local orphanages. This experience was vital for her later decisions in life because while being there she understood one crucial fact: without technology, there is no connectedness between people!
So, going back home to the States in 2012, she took part in a business incubator. The project she was working on there wasn’t taking off, but the stars aligned in her favor when she met a few people who were working on a side-gig built during a hackathon.
Revolutionizing Online Dating
This is where the story of Whitney Wolfe becomes, to say the least, a bit complicated.
By the middle of 2012, Tinder was set up and ready-to-go. At the time, Justin Mateen, one of the co-founders, was working on marketing operations for the app and he vouched for Whitney to jump in on the launching campaigns. This included Whitney going back to her college campus to promote Tinder.
She has shared on multiple occasions that one of the strategies included her going to the on-campus sorority and fraternity houses, telling the students there to download the app.
Whitney believed in the concept of dating in a completely new way - with the help of technology. That’s why after only a single week of efforts, almost all of the campus students were using Tinder. Her input on Tinder’s success is undeniable, although from today’s point of view, what happened internally is still unclear.
Whitney’s romantic entanglement with Justin Mateen is the reason for the complicated history between her and Tinder. Their relationship isn’t the focus of this story, but it’s notable to mention that because of their break up, Whitney’s career took an unexpected turn.
After leaving Tinder in 2014, Whitney filed a lawsuit for sexual harassment. According to her side of the story, she was mistreated, harassed and the efforts she put to build the company were not recognized by her once friends and colleagues.
In 2014, there was barely a MeToo Movement, and women speaking out about harassment at the workplace was considered to be a bold move. So, Whitney paid a huge price for taking the matter to the public.
What Goes Down - Must Come Up!
Truth is - corporate misogyny is an issue that women face when entering the world of entrepreneurship. The backlash that came after Whitney’s clash with Tinder is just one of many examples of women facing cruel consequences after stepping out and speaking out.
Dozens of articles were published against Whitney’s side of the story, and her experience was not only questioned, but completely dismissed as well. This took the young woman's ambition to new rock-bottom. For about six months, the now Bumble CEO was bombarded with death threats and all kinds of accusations, only because she stood up to defend herself and her integrity.
Although she had a support system from her closest friends and family during this time, Whitney has said that she felt completely alone. While the media was scrutinizing her actions, it felt as though they were in her home, and she couldn’t escape her past.
One day, after feeling complete defeat, Whitney thought of how many other women like her have and still are feeling the same way. So, her mind slowly started to shift towards other people.
After a lot of self-reflecting and analyzing her situation, the thought of taking the thing that broke her heart the most and building a solution around it, was what picked her up from the ground.
Near the end of 2014, Whitney received an email from Andrey Andreev - founder of the Badoo dating app. In that email, he stated his support and offered her to start a new online dating platform.
At first, Whitney didn’t want anything to do with online dating apps and instead wanted to build a platform where women can socialize and support one another. After a lot of back and forth, she grew fond of the idea of a dating app where women would make the first step.
That’s how the concept of Bumble came to be.
Growing The Hive
In December 2014, Bumble was founded. Andrey became Whitney’s business partner, providing her with funding and an engineering team for the app. He owned 80% of the company, while Whitney had 20% of the ownership. The strong concept, as well as the passion and hard work put into it, led to Bumble having 15 million conversations and 80 million matches in just a single year!
But Bumble was more than just a dating app. Whitney’s mission was to create the female internet and in her words ‘change thousands of years of behavior - globally!’
That’s exactly how Bumble rose to be one of the most used dating apps in the United States, marking 22 million registered users in 2017 and making Whitney Wolfe one of the most important women in tech under 30.
The idea of creating a platform where women could support other women never faded away. Whitney knew the time was right, and in 2016 she launched Bumble BFF - a place for creating authentic friendship and Bumble Bizz - a professional networking app.
This meant that, even against all odds, Whitney Wolfe pushed through everything that was thrown at her, and turned the idea she had when she was at rock-bottom - into a rising empire!
Bumble and Whitney Today
Today, Bumble is a parent company that has more than 100 million users worldwide and is worth around a whopping $8 billion. Aside from Bumble BFF and Bumble Biz, Whitney invested and helped build Chappy - a UK-based gay dating app.
But what’s worth more than the success of Bumble - is the woman standing behind it!
Whitney Wolfe is an inspiration and a role model for female entrepreneurs all around the world. Her boldness and ability to rise above any obstacle is why Bumble keeps setting new rules of how online dating works, year after year.
Whitney is a positive influence - on her coworkers, friends, and most importantly victims of at-work sexual harassment. Not only has she paved the way for women in tech, but she’s also changed the speed at which a woman can get to the finish line in the entrepreneurial world!