Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd becomes the youngest woman to take a company public

February 11, 2021, 8:02 PM UTC

Bumble Inc. CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd has been through a lot on her journey to take the company public. A high-profile dispute with Tinder. The launch of her own dating app. The ouster of Bumble’s original backer, Badoo founder Andrey Andreev. A majority stake from Blackstone. And now, a high-priced, record-breaking IPO.

Bumble Inc. raised $2.2 billion from investors as it went public via Nasdaq Thursday morning, with shares priced at $43, above the initial range set for the offering. The company, which includes the Bumble women-first dating app founded by Wolfe Herd and Badoo, a popular dating app outside the U.S., was valued around $8 billion at the time of its IPO and was trading well above that initial price—at around $76—midday Thursday.

Wolfe Herd rang the opening bell from Bumble’s offices in Austin with her 1-year-old son by her side. The IPO makes Wolfe Herd, 31, the youngest woman to take a company public (and, according to Bloomberg, with a $1.5 billion payday, a rare self-made female billionaire). She follows in the footsteps of Katrina Lake, the Stitch Fix founder and CEO, whose 2017 IPO at age 34—with her own baby in her arms—held the record Wolfe Herd broke. Only about 20 women have ever taken the companies they founded public.

The company that Wolfe Herd debuts on the public markets is different from the one she launched seven years ago. The Bumble app was responsible for about $275 million of the company’s revenue in 2019, more than Badoo’s $213 million. But Badoo—popular in Latin America and some parts of Europe—has 28 million monthly active users to Bumble’s 12 million. When it comes to paying users, Bumble and Badoo turn out similar numbers.

Since Wolfe Herd took over both businesses via a 2019 Blackstone deal that sold off Andreev’s majority stake following reports of a toxic work environment at Badoo, Bumble has become an even larger part of the overall company’s strategy and branding. In its IPO prospectus, Bumble Inc. highlighted to investors statistics like women’s $30 trillion global purchasing power and the app’s industry-high rate of women who convert to paying users.

Bumble Inc. now joins its biggest competitor, Match Group (which owns Tinder), in the public markets. Match is still a much larger business, with revenue of over $1 billion.

A few hours after ringing the opening bell—and a bit distracted as she watched her son play with one of Bumble’s celebratory balloons—Wolfe Herd spoke to Fortune about the IPO. This interview has been edited and condensed.

Fortune: What does it feel like for you to be the youngest woman to take a company public? What does it mean to you—especially ringing the opening bell with your 1-year-old by your side?

Whitney Wolfe Herd: It’s pretty surreal. And it really is a moment to celebrate. We’re excited to hopefully have this record be broken soon; we are very excited to cheer on the next woman who beats this record.

Was this the moment you imagined, ringing the bell from your office, not from the Nasdaq floor?

This is not the year any of us could have imagined. I’m just honored and humbled to be able to do it with a team that was able to tune in from around the globe. But it’s quite ironic, given we’re a company here to bring people closer together, even when they aren’t physically in the same room together.

Your IPO was priced well above the initial range you set out. What is exciting investors about this IPO? Do investors care about the distinguishing factors you describe in your prospectus—that Bumble is built to serve women or that you have a high rate of women as paying users for the industry?

I think they’re really excited about the differentiated approach of putting women in the driver’s seat—but also that, for the first time ever in the dating category, there’s a company that is really focused on building a brand and a mission and a movement around the product. Historically, a lot of the dating products that have come before us have been really focused on product and haven’t really extended beyond that. I think they’re excited about the opportunity to engage on both the brand and the product and technology, but also the evolution of our mission and our movement.

Speaking of your mission-oriented approach, in your IPO prospectus, you flagged the possibility that you could be held to a higher standard than other businesses as a potential risk. That’s been a big conversation over the past year or so for women-led companies. Is that a risk that you’re worried about?

As long as we keep a very healthy sense of self-awareness and commitment to improvement and recognize we’re not perfect—we call that out, right? We admit that. I will admit that all day to both our team and to external sources that we are not perfect, but we are trying. And we’re making the first move every day to try and do a better job to improve diversity and to improve relationships and improve the safety of the Internet. And that’s all we can do in this world—just try our best every day. We recognize that we have a long way to go. But we’re here for the long run, and we’re committed.

Your new board is majority women. But with this IPO, have you taken any steps to try to reach women as public market investors?

We met with tons of women, and that was definitely showcased both from the ambassadors we met with but also in our personal selection process. There was such an emphasis on diversifying the team that touched this and the team that’s investing in this.

Bumble has now passed Badoo in terms of where most of your revenue is coming from. What is responsible for that switch? Is it a greater focus on the Bumble app since you took over or enough time since its founding for Bumble to reach that point?

These products are marketplaces, and marketplaces are dependent on quality to chase scale and organic growth. Bumble has this remarkable organic growth story because of the high-quality customer base. The power of word of mouth and the network effect is irreplaceable. We’ve really seen the benefit of that in our metrics.

How has the company changed since you took over? Is there a greater focus on the Bumble app internally now than there was before?

I wouldn’t say that we’re more focused on one or the other. We’re definitely dedicated to both of our platforms, and both of our customers, both of our audiences, and both of our dedicated teams. It’s just a different approach culturally. From a unification standpoint, we’re united under one common arm of Bumble Inc. We’re really operating as a combined company with one shared infrastructure system, which gives us major operating leverage moving forward.

You’re the founder of the Bumble app, and the company going public today is Bumble Inc., home to both Bumble and Badoo. Does it feel like the company you founded is going public? Or is this a different business?

Bumble is the majority of our revenue. So I absolutely feel like this is a founder-led IPO. The decision not to separate Badoo from this company was because we see huge opportunity to serve the community that uses Badoo. This is a Bumble IPO through and through.

As you prepare to run a public company, who or what are you turning to for advice or guidance?

Katrina Lake is an incredible woman. I’m honored to have direct access to her, to our team at Blackstone, to the women on our board—Ann Mather [former Pixar CFO] as our chairwoman. She has been a guiding light for me at personal and professional levels. Amy Griffin [founder and managing partner of G9 Ventures] is a huge supporter of healthier relationships, and so are Elisa Steele [former Namely CEO], Pamela Thomas-Graham [former Credit Suisse executive], and Jennifer Morgan [Blackstone executive and former co-CEO of SAP]—we have a sensational board.

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