Bumble's load screen. Editorial Credit: Boumen Japet, Shutterstock.
Female-led dating app Bumble has filed paperwork to go public and will fittingly make its entrance on the Nasdaq around Valentine’s Day.
The social networking site headquartered in Austin, Texas, was founded in 2014 with the ambition of shaking up the dating world and empowering women to select which relationships they wanted to pursue by giving them the sole power to make matches and start conversations, breaking typical gender roles.
In Bumble’s S-1, Founder Whitney Wolfe Herd wrote to investors saying women should feel able to, “without fear and judgement,” make the first move in a relationship, and by allowing them to do so, traditional dating dynamics that “disempowered women and created unnecessary pressure for men,” would be turned on their heads.
The message resonated. Although the online dating space is crowded with apps such as Tinder, Match, OKCupid and Hinge (all owned by Match Group), Bumble carved out a space in part by blocking misogynist users, banning Capitol rioters and gun photos, and flagging lewd images along the way to become a unicorn startup. The company is now valued at more than $3 billion and has more than 40 million monthly active users. Bumble now also includes Bumble BFF for finding friends and Bumble Bizz for professional networking.
Although online dating was commonplace prior to the pandemic, the global shift online has only increased the demand for dating platforms, as people crave human connection during quarantines and isolations. Between Jan. 29 and Sept. 30, 2020, Bumble reported a net loss of $84 million on revenue of $376 million, and, according to Bloomberg, could seek a valuation of $6-8 billion.
Bringing kindness to online dating
Whitney Wolfe Herd has become somewhat of an icon in the online dating world, taking on the titans and building a strong brand centered on women and healthy relationships.
At 31, she will be one of the youngest female CEOs to take a company public and she’ll be doing so with an executive team that has a 50/50 split of women to men and a board that is 73% female – a stark difference to the majority of listed companies.
Wolfe Herd was no stranger to the world of dating apps prior to Bumble, having co-founded top-ranked dating app Tinder. She left the company after she sued over allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination, going on to launch Bumble in 2014 under parent company MagicLab, run by billionare Andrey Andreev.
In 2019, investment firm Blackstone bought a majority stake in MagicLab (since renamed Bumble) when Andreev left the company, promoting Wolfe Herd to CEO and leaving her in charge of both Bumble and Badoo, a dating app popular outside of the U.S. that was founded by Andreev.
In a 2018 interview, Wolfe Herd said she got out of bed each day to reverse engineer abusive and misogynistic behavior, both online and off. She has taken an aggressive stance against misogyny on the platform, and was instrumental in getting a Texas law passed making it illegal to send unwanted nude photos.
"Our long-term vision is to be the platform to meet new people, no matter what you might be looking for, whichever life stage or situation you're in," Wolfe Herd wrote in the letter to investors. "We will do this with our innovative technology -- and by advocating for equality, both through legislation and with the power of our trusted brand.”
Right team for the job
Bumble Chief of Staff Caroline Ellis Roche has been at Wolfe Herd’s side since the get-go, and will be instrumental in keeping everything running smoothly as the company continues to grow.
Ellis Roche, a fellow Southern Methodist University graduate, intricately knows the workings of Bumble and is dedicated to its vision of creating a kinder world and ending misogyny, saying in a 2018 interview, “all of these steps that we are taking each day ladder up to those two items.”
Another long standing team member keeping Bumble on the right track is Chief Product Officer Miles Norris, who joined in 2014. With Bumble and Badoo, Norris is responsible for over 500 million users in over 190 countries and manages six heads of departments - product, design, revenue, BI, insights, community operations, and localization.
Norris told the crowd at 2020’s ProductCon that Bumble was a rocket ship and revenue power house with great distribution between male and female users, adding it had facilitated countless healthy and happy relationships. “Nothing makes me more happy than a letter from one of users saying they found their partner, their husband or wife, on one of our products,” he said.
Another key player in Bumble’s executive team is Chief Strategy Officer Sarah Jones Simmer. Jones Simmer, who has been onboard since 2017 and was the company's Chief Operating Officer until being promoted in October 2020, is responsible for core strategy, international growth, marketing initiatives and business operations, as well as the expansion of Bumble’s rapidly growing team that now has offices in London, Sydney, Berlin, Mumbai, Toronto, and Mexico City.
Jones Simmer, who previously worked in investment, consulting, and business operations, also leads the investment strategy for the Bumble Fund, Bumble's early stage investing vehicle focused on the next generation of women-led businesses.
Building for the future
Last year, as Bumble hit the 100-million total users mark, it made moves to grow its team and install a new board.
The new hires included the company’s first-ever president and chief technology officer, along with new Chief People Officer Tran Taylor. Taylor, formerly an EVP at Mr. Cooper and the CPO at Travelocity, will be tasked with building the right team and managing the culture at the company as it expands overseas.
New President Tariq Shaukat, a former president of industry products and solutions at Google Cloud, will take a driving seat in the company’s direction, while new CTO Ronen Benchetrit, who came onboard as the company opened its tech hub in Barcelona, will facilitate the growth of the hub, which will house more than 600 employees. The company has advertised vacancies for Android Engineers, Java Kotlin Engineers, and iOS developers as part of this growth.
At the time of hiring, Bumble said Subramanian, previously SVP and CFO at Univision, and Drummond, Snap’s first-ever global head of fashion and beauty partnerships, would partner with new and legacy executive leaders to support the company’s plans to expand its app to more countries and support its growth in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
“The additions of Anu and Selby underscore our commitment, along with Blackstone, to strengthen our bench with world class talent that deeply epitomize our mission and values,” Wolfe Herd told TechCrunch at the time.
“Not only will their contributions provide a powerful impact on our businesses, they’ve also brought equal representation of women and men on our executive leadership team — a milestone that means a great deal to me on many levels.”
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