Bumble Cofounder Becomes World’s Youngest Self-Made Woman Billionaire, Thanks To IPO

Whitney Wolfe Herd.

[Update 7 pm ET: Whitney Wolfe Herd ended the day Thursday with a net worth of $1.5 billion based on Bumble stock closing at $70.55.]

Shares of dating app Bumble soared in its IPO on Thursday, turning its 31-year-old CEO and founder Whitney Wolfe Herd into the world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire. Her nearly 12% stake in the company was worth $1.6 billion as of 12:40 p.m. EST on Thursday.

Bumble stock opened at $76, much higher than its initial IPO price of $43 per share. The company made its debut hours after the markets opened on Thursday.

According to Bumble’s prospectus, Wolfe Herd owns 21.54 million shares, equivalent to 11.6% of the company. In addition to being the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire, she is also the youngest female CEO ever to take a company public in the U.S.

Bumble is the second big dating app to go public, after Match.com parent Match Group’s 2015 IPO. Match Group tried to buy Wolfe Herd’s company in 2017 for $450 million. At $76 a share early Thursday afternoon, Bumble’s market capitalization is $8.6 billion. Match Group, which also owns dating app Tinder, has a $45 billion market capitalization.

Bumble reported $417 million in revenue in the first nine months of 2020, up from $363 million over the same time frame in 2019. Match Group is far bigger: It reported $1.7 billion in revenue in the first nine months of 2020 and $1.5 billion in the year prior. As a result of the public offering, the Austin-based company raised $2.2 billion. Most of the funds raised in the offering will be used to purchase or redeem shares from its pre-IPO owners—namely private equity firm Blackstone, which owned nearly 91% prior to the offering, and Wolfe Herd. The prospectus also details a $120 million loan that the company gave to Wolfe Herd in January 2020, which was settled a year later after Wolfe Herd forfeited $95.5 million worth of Bumble shares.

Wolfe Herd founded Bumble in 2014 shortly after she sued Tinder, her previous employer, for sexual harassment. She alleged that her former boss and boyfriend, Justin Mateen, had sent threats, derogatory texts and stripped her of her cofounder title at Tinder. Tinder denied any wrongdoing, and the case was quickly and confidentially settled.

After she left Tinder, Wolfe Herd worked with Andrey Andreev, a London-based Russian billionaire who had been building successful online dating apps for the European and Latin American markets, to start Bumble. On Bumble, only women can make the outreach first, a differentiating factor from Tinder and other online dating apps.

Andreev exited the company in November 2019, four months after Forbes published an investigation that found allegations of a misogynistic atmosphere in the London office, under Andreev’s leadership—putting it at odds with Bumble’s mantra of women’s empowerment. The company denied the majority of the allegations, and launched an internal investigation headed by U.K. employment law firm Doyle Clayton, which concluded “that the central allegation made by the Forbes article—that there is currently a misogynistic atmosphere at the London office is incorrect. Nevertheless, the investigation did identify a small number of current and former employees who feel that there are “elements of sexism” at the company.

Private equity firm Blackstone Group stepped in to buy Andreev’s stake in November 2020, in a deal that valued the company at $3 billion.

It has been a rocky journey for Wolfe Herd, but Bumble made quite the buzz on its first day of trading. “Today, @Bumble becomes a public company,” Wolfe Herd tweeted. “This is only possible thanks to the 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.”

I am a staff writer at Forbes. Follow me on Twitter or send me an email at aau-yeung@forbes.com.

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