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Bumble IPO makes CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd a billionaire

February 12, 2021, 3:27 PM UTC

It may be the depths of winter in much of the country, but the IPO market remains as hot as a sizzling steak in July and the latest entrant has some special sauce worth noting.

Dating app purveyor Bumble went public at $43 a share on Thursday, up from a range reaching as low as $28 a share just a few weeks ago. Then it opened at $76, up 77%, before settling down and closing at $70.31. That means the company is now worth over $13 billion and founder/CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd’s stake is worth about $1.5 billion.

Please have your debate without me about whether this confirms the stock market bubble. I’m also ducking out of the discussion over whether this means Bumble left too much money on the table and should have structured its deal as a direct listing, a SPAC merger, or a cryptocurrency token backed by Redditors issued on Robinhood.

Instead, let’s focus on Bumble. Bumble’s namesake dating app came with a twist: Women were in charge of signaling their interest to men, and not the other way around. By last year, 12.3 million monthly active users were sending 150 million messages a day with prospective daters.

The success for founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, at 31 the youngest-ever woman CEO to take a company public, required that she fight through a tangled path of sexism and disputes.

Wolfe Herd was head of marketing and a co-founder at OG dating app Tinder but left in 2014 after another co-founder sent her abusive, sexist emails and messages. Her lawsuit was settled out of court for over $1 million. She then partnered with Russian billionaire Andrey Andreev, whose own dating app Badoo was popular in Europe and Latin America but had a reputation for boorish users. Next came the blockbuster report in Forbes almost two years ago that Andreev’s company was rife with “sex, drugs, misogyny and sleaze.” Within months, private equity shop Blackstone took over, anointing Wolfe Herd as CEO and sending Andreev packing. She cleaned up the mess and improved the reputation of Badoo.

Still there are challenges. After the Blackstone takeover and restructuring, revenue for the first nine months of 2020 rose only 15% from the same period in 2019. And a net profit of $75 million for that part of 2019 turned into a net loss of $117 million.

Wolfe Herd spoke to my colleague Emma Hinchliffe on Thursday and emphasized the opportunity for Bumble to expand beyond dating. The company already has apps for business networking and platonic friendship. “A lot of the dating products that have come before us have been really focused on product and haven’t really extended beyond that,” Wolfe Herd said.

She also said that she’d like to see her mark of being the youngest CEO taking a company public beaten. “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.”

Aaron Pressman
@ampressman
aaron.pressman@fortune.com

Fortune’s offices are closed on Monday for President’s Day. Data Sheet will be back in your inbox on Tuesday.

NEWSWORTHY

Munch all you want, we'll make more. The Biden administration is crafting an executive order to help alleviate the semiconductor shortage currently slowing production of cars, laptops, and other items. The pretty vague effort so far is "currently identifying potential chokepoints in the supply chain and actively working alongside key stakeholders in industry and with our trading partners to do more now,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced on Thursday. In an unrelated move that could help in the long term, Samsung announced it will spend $17 billion to build a chip plant in U.S.

Bits and bytes of the world, unite. Workers at the online publishing platform Medium say they are forming a union under the auspices of the Communications Workers of America, the latest move for tech workers to seek stronger labor protections. Medium management said it is "assessing the appropriate next steps.”

My cryptos ready to explode, explode, explode. More mainstream financial institutions embraced bitcoin, sending the digital currency's price close to $50,000. Bank of New York Mellon said it would deal in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for its customers. And Mastercard is engaging with central banks around the world that want to issue their own digital currencies.

iPhone apps that taste good. We've previously highlighted some of the strengths and weaknesses with Apple's new required privacy disclosure labels for mobile apps. Now the House Committee on Energy & Commerce is getting involved, sending a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook urging the company to "ensure consumers are provided meaningful information" and "not harmed by these potentially deceptive practices.”

A.I. in the closet. Remember the amazing but scary video from Boston Dynamics of their robot Spot opening doors and what not? In a new video, they've given Spot a giant arm and the robot has all sort of new tricks. It's incredible but I'm not sure how well I'll sleep tonight.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Two years ago, Bloomberg Businessweek published a story on alleged Chinese hacking of products from server maker Supermicro. The story was denounced as false by various companies including Apple and Amazon plus some government agencies. Now Bloomberg reporters Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley are back with a sequel. No new details about Apple or Amazon this time.

With additional reporting, it’s now clear that the Businessweek report captured only part of a larger chain of events in which U.S. officials first suspected, then investigated, monitored and tried to manage China’s repeated manipulation of Supermicro’s products.

Throughout, government officials kept their findings from the general public. Supermicro itself wasn’t told about the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation, according to three former U.S. officials. The secrecy lifted occasionally, as the bureau and other government agencies warned a select group of companies and sought help from outside experts.

FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE

A few great long reads I came across this week:

Apple Is the $2.3 Trillion Fortress That Tim Cook Built (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Trade war? Pfft. Trump? Please. Antitrust? Zuck’s prob. (Ditto privacy.) Revenue? Endless.

Before Reddit Disrupted the Stock Market, It Cracked the Economy of ‘Animal Crossing’ (The Ringer)
The rush on so-called “meme stocks” in January and early February may have had an unlikely forebear: the turnip market in the hit Nintendo game.

A managerial Mephistopheles’: inside the mind of Jeff Bezos (The Guardian)
The Amazon founder’s relentless quest for ‘customer ecstasy’ made him one of the world’s richest people – now he’s looking to the unlimited resources of space. Is he the genius our age of consumerism deserves?

The True History and Swashbuckling Myth Behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Namesake (Smithsonian)
Pirates did roam the Gulf Coast, but more myths than facts have inspired the regional folklore.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

The ‘stonks’ market caught the A.I. algorithms off guard, too By Jeremy Kahn

Which Super Bowl advertiser got the worst return on its investment? By Geoff Colvin

Addressing the crisis facing moms with policy for women, by women By Kristen Bellstrom and Emma Hinchliffe

Automakers and environmentalists unite in call for 1 million European EV charging stations By David Meyer

The technologies driving business transformation in 2021 By Alex Holt and Mark Gibson

(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)

BEFORE YOU GO

By now, you have probably seen the hilarious footage of lawyer Rod Ponton appearing in a Zoom court hearing as a giant cat. "I'm here, live, I'm not a cat," he says plaintively. Many have since searched in vain for the filter that Ponton used. It's not part of Zoom at all, however.

As Dell's global chief of technology for products, John Roese, explained at yesterday's Brainstorm Tech event, Ponton's ancient computer setup apparently included an ancient webcam and cat filter software from Dell. Roese was a bit alarmed that software so old was still in use. He said the company is debating whether to relaunch an update of the cat filter to capitalize on the publicity. His boss, Michael Dell, wasn't waiting around for a decision. "The future is meow," he tweeted. Have a cat-errific weekend. We will see you back here on Tuesday.