Wall Street just keeps on giving. Once it went public on February 11th, Bumble, the feminist dating app training on Nasdaq stock exchange under “BMBL” had seen its company’s shares soar by more than 76%, reaching a market cap of $8.3 bn. By the time the stock market closed on its debut day, the company which last year was evaluated at about $3bn had its stock shares estimated at more than $13 bn (£9.4bn) “Today, @Bumble becomes a public company. This is only possible thanks to more than 1.7 billion first moves made by brave women on our app — and the pioneering women who paved the way for us in the business world. To everyone who made today possible: Thank you. #BumbleIPO,” Whitney Wolfe Herd, its CEO, tweeted.
Founded and launched in December 2014 by Whitney Wolfe Herd, former co-founder of Tinder, and Andrey Andreev, the founder of Badoo dating app, Bumble was designed to offer women a safer and more protected online space to socialize and possibly find a partner. “I founded Bumble to empower women to build healthier and more equitable connections to improve relationships for everyone,” Herd said in the IPO filing.
Wolfe Herd’s departure from Tinder had not been a quiet one – she accused her cofounders of subjecting her to sexual harassment, and her then-partner and direct manager, Justin Mateen of becoming “verbally controlling and abusive.” She sued both, Tinder and its parent company, IAC, which denied all allegations but later paid her more than $1m plus stocks in Tinder to settle the dispute. Her initial plan was to build a competitor for Instagram where people could only post positive comments but was convinced by Andreev to launch the online dating app for women. Andreev initially invested $10m making him the majority owner – 79% stake, while Wolfe Herd had 20%.
The strategy behind the app was the same as Tinder’s: targeting college campuses, and the way it would work would be to swipe right if you like the person and left if you don’t. One key difference compared to other dating apps – in heterosexual relationships women have to make the first move, having a 24h window to act before the matches disappeared.
The app became successful at Auburn University and the University of Texas at Austin – where the company is based.By the end of 2017, it gained 22 million users. Match Group, the same company that owns Tinder offered to buy out the company for $450 million but it got turned down. In return, Match Group had filed a lawsuit against Bumble, claiming intellectual property infringement. That backfired and Bumble counter-sued two weeks later, accusing Match of fraud and trade secrets theft. Both lawsuits were later dropped.
Bumble has been known to act as an advocate against misogyny. In July 2019 a Forbes investigation revealed that Badoo, Bumble’s sister company had a history of drug-fuelled parties and sexist behaviour. That caused Andreev to sell his entire stake in MagicLab, the parent company of Bumble and Badoo to the Blackstone Group, the private equity firm backing Bumble. Wolfe Herd became the CEO. The company’s feminist approach seems to be consistent throughout the years. An announcement read: “Dear Connor, it has been brought to our attention that you lost your cool on one of our female users, Ashley,” the company wrote, adding: “Consider yourself blocked from Bumble.”
In March 2019, Wolfe Herd had lobbied for a bill which would make lustful photos illegal. She was successful and as a result, Bumble introduced its own technology to remove those types of images. On January 27th, 2021 she tweeted: We at @bumble are pleased to be supporting the call to amend the UK’s Domestic Abuse Bill, which would make the threat to share intimate images and videos a crime. Thank you to @RefugeCharity for leading the campaign to stop #TheNakedThreat.
In 2019 revenues soared more than 35% with a profit of $68.6m. In 2020 the company suffered a $116m loss with a decline of 15% year-on-year. Nevertheless, since 2015 the company grew up to 100 million users and Magic Lab changed its name to Bumble. As of 2021, Bumble’s figures show 42 million active monthly users, including more than 2.4 million paying users. In addition to the dating feature, Bumble had also set up networks for professional and friendship interests. Celebrities like Priyanka Chopra and Serena Williams invested in the app.
According to a Business Insider’s report, the major findings from Bumble’s pre-IPO filings were based on four key considerations: saturated and competitive dating market, a rise both in revenues and costs, the need to increase paid subscribers, and that Bumble will be a “controlled company” under Blackstone. Bumble’s IPOs opened much higher than predicted: the initial target was $43 per share and opening started at $76 per share. The app is offering 45 million shares. Insider reported that Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Jefferies, RBC Capital, and Evercore ISI are underwriting the offering.
At 31, Wolfe Herd became the youngest female CEO to take a company public in the US and to ever lead an IPO, making her the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire, with a stake valued at $1.6 billion (£1.1bn). According to Bumble’s prospectus, Wolfe Herd owns a total of 21.54 million shares, which is the equivalent to 11.6 per cent of the company.