In June 2014, Whitney Wolfe Herd put Tinder, a company she co-founded, on trial for sexual harassment. Her issues stemmed from her ex-partner and the business’s CEO, Justin Mateen, another co-founder of the dating app. However, other executive leaders were also responsible for not listening to her concerns, writing her off, and eventually firing her. The case was settled, and she received over $1 million (plus stock in the business).
Fast forward seven years later: Wolfe Herd simultaneously became the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire and woman to take a company public. Today, her business, Bumble, is known as one of the top-rated dating apps on the market. In 2020, the company earned $582 million, up from $488 million the previous year.
While Wolfe Herd’s success is inspiring, too many journalists have written her story off as feminist revenge. One where she experienced immense pain and trauma at the hands of men, only to spite them by conquering her abusers.
While there’s no denying she’s an inspiration to women worldwide, her MO isn’t getting back at anyone—it’s creating a world where women feel safe connecting with others online and developing healthy relationships. Focusing solely on her redemption story minimizes her value as a strategic thinker, creative leader, and innovator. Wolfe Herd has a lot to teach entrepreneurs navigating their own companies in saturated markets.
In this article, learn more about:
- Who Whitney Wolfe Herd is
- How she started Bumble
- What strategies she used to stand out among her competitors
- And how you can apply the same tactics to your business
An Entrepreneur at Heart
Even before Whitney Wolfe Herd launched Bumble, her work history showed a distinct entrepreneurial spirit. While still in college, she started the Help Us Project, which sold organic bamboo tote bags to benefit the Ocean Futures Society. Shortly after that, Wolfe Herd founded Tender Heart, a clothing line based in Nepal that raised awareness for human trafficking and fair trade. Upon graduating college, she went and worked for New York incubator Hatch Labs, where she became involved with several of the co-founders from Tinder. In 2012, she joined the team, leading the business’s marketing efforts.
Why Whitney Herd Founded Bumble
After the business partnership went sour, Wolfe Herd began thinking about creating a digital safe space for women to connect with others while minimizing the chance for abuse, harassment, and negative experiences. Her idea for Bumble was centered around reversing gender norms and empowering women to make the first move.
“I wanted to really go out and build a social platform for women to find respect and be treated well, to be treated with kindness, and to treat others with kindness—to try and engineer this good behavior versus contagious negative behavior, which is what I felt like the internet was completely overrun with,” Wolfe Herd tells the hosts of 9 to 5ish.
Whitney Wolfe became the founder and CEO of Bumble less than a year after she left Tinder. In 2016, Bumble monetized by creating a paid subscription version of their product to their 8 million users. By 2021, that number rose to 42 million, generating $723.03 million in revenue.
But these numbers didn’t just explode into massive growth on their own. Learn more about how Whitney Wolfe Herd led her business to success and the ways you can replicate her strategies below.
3 Ways Whitney Wolfe Herd Differentiated Her Product
1. Created a Distinct, Engaging Brand Customers Love
“Anyone can replicate a product. There are lots of brilliant minds out there that know how to code, but there’s unique DNA to a brand. You cannot have a brand without people. That is the most important asset you will ever have.”
Bumble weaves Wolfe Herd’s vision throughout their branding. Themes of self-love, growth, motivation, support, and love can be seen across their various social media platforms. This puts their messaging on par with the founder’s desire to make the internet a kinder place for women.
The Bumble founder and her “hive” have put a ton of thought and development into the brand. The product’s user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) rise above their competitors, conveying it’s a valuable, high-quality tool. From a sleek, simplistic design to the welcoming yellow touches found throughout the branding, it’s clear Bumble isn’t your ordinary dating app: it’s a lifestyle brand.
Wolfe Herd’s example shows that investing in the creation of a phenomenal product or service attracts customers into a marketing flywheel where you can begin engaging with potential buyers and creating delight in their lives.
To do this:
- Know your target market. Wolfe Herd is successful because she understands her customers’ problems. Studying your target audience and developing a product specifically designed for your customer avatar can create similar results.
- Have a vision. Before starting Bumble, Wolfe Herd had a distinct vision for the company. Since then, she’s been strategically expanding to create more opportunities for women. Having a clear vision helps business owners align company goals with the organization’s purpose. Establishing a daily visualization practice is a great way to see the future. Furthermore, reverse engineering from the finish line backward helps leaders create an action plan toward goal achievement.
- Work with professional writers, designers, developers, and marketers when developing a product. The Bumble CEO had a team behind her to create and continuously improve the app. Too often, entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking they can brand and launch a product or service by themselves. They see little success because they don’t know how to do each required job with excellence. As a result, customers fail to purchase from their company.
2. Built Core Values Into Her Product
“Bumble’s core values are kindness, accountability, equality, respect and growth. These values are a part of our DNA and will continue to guide us along with our north star and mission to end misogyny and to create a kinder internet in all corners of the world. By keeping these values at the helm of everything we do, Bumble has been able to change the way people connect online.”
As the Bumble CEO describes in an interview with the Female Founders Fund, developing and following core values allows leaders to fulfill their vision of a brighter future. Everything the company does filters through its core values and desire to provide women with a better online experience. The business has taken the following measures to ensure its core values are being adhered to:
- Offers educational resources on what digital abuse is and how to identify it.
- Encourages conversation by not allowing “ghosting.” Initial matches expire if someone doesn’t reach out or respond in 24 hours.
- Implemented a zero-tolerance policy for harassment.
- Developed a feature that automatically blocks lewd photos.
- Instilled a verification process powered by facial recognition software to help limit fake profiles and online predators.
To create core values in your business, think about:
- What problem you want to solve in the world.
- Why you believe this problem should be solved.
- How you’ll solve it.
- What beliefs and convictions power your business.
- What you stand for and what you stand against.
3. Disrupted the Dating App Market
“If you’re doing anything disruptive, and if you know it to be good and true and progressive, let the naysayers fuel you to work harder . . . ”
Unlike its other two top competitors, Hinge and Tinder, Bumble isn’t perceived as strictly a dating app, which is a huge differentiating factor. This is because Wolfe Herd’s vision wasn’t helping people find love—that’s just a byproduct of what the app offers. Instead, Bumble is a place to grow and develop relationships with others in various ways.
In 2016, the company launched Bumble BFF, where women can connect online and become friends no matter their relationship status. A year later, the business also added Bumble Bizz to the mix. As an online space for professional networking, it serves a similar function to LinkedIn. Because these ambitious programs launched successfully shortly after the company began running a paid subscription model, the business drew in customers with different relationship-building needs.
In other words, Wolfe Herd deployed a blue ocean strategy. She differentiated herself by offering several ways for her target audience to develop meaningful connections. Instead of drowning in a red ocean of dating apps that just focus on providing matches, Bumble thrives by offering women a plethora of options for building close relationships.
It also sends another empowering, on-brand message: dating isn’t always the focal point of a woman’s life. Some women seek other types of relationships, depending on what they choose to prioritize. By showing a long-term vested interest in providing more opportunities for connection, Bumble has risen above its competitors.
To find your own blue ocean:
- Consider what problems your competition won’t solve.
- Ask deep questions. Sometimes companies refuse to tackle an issue because they don’t dig deep into why things are the way they are. Use first principles thinking to find truth and get to the root of problems.
- Think about how to provide your customers with the most value.
- Brainstorm ways to delight people in your marketing flywheel.
- Get creative—be willing to experiment, try new things, and innovate your industry.
Focusing on the Future: What’s Next for Bumble
After Bumble publicly filed for an IPO, Wolfe Herd penned a letter celebrating this milestone, writing:
“Our long-term vision is to be the platform to meet new people, no matter who you might be looking for, whichever life stage or situation you’re in. We will do this with our innovative technology—and by advocating for equality, both through legislation and with the power of our trusted brand . . . We will continue to create an inclusive place to foster and build community around shared struggles and common joys.”
When considering the company’s future, one thing is clear: Wolfe Herd’s eyes will remain focused on her long-term vision of creating a safe space on the internet where women can grow life-long connections with others. Thus far, she’s been more than successful. Millions of people have met on Bumble. As a result, best friends, business partners, husbands, wives, and babies have all been products of her venture.
While the business’s fluctuating stock price raises some concern for investors, Bumble is still expanding and remaining focused on long-term growth. In February 2022, the company acquired its first business, the French dating app Fruitz. It’s unclear how this will affect the organization, but considering Whitney Wolfe Herd’s strong leadership qualities, she won’t allow the business to deviate off its successful track.
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