Bumble boss is taking it to the limit for female empowerment

Whitney Wolfe Herd

Whitney Wolfe Herd


As founder and CEO of Bumble, Whitney Wolfe Herd leads one of the world’s fastest-growing social networks. She joined Hearst chief content officer Joanna Coles on the Innovation Stage to explain how she built a $1.5bn company before reaching 30. Her key advice to budding entrepreneurs was “do what’s right for you and work harder than anyone else. Find what frustrates you and fix it.”

The thing Wolfe Herd is trying to fix is the lack of empowerment many women feel in the digital world. She worked at Tinder for two years and left as a result of sexual harassment: “I was attacked online by strangers — and I didn’t know if I wanted to live. That created the fire within me to reinvent the internet from a women’s point of view.”

Wolfe Herd went on to launch Bumble as a dating site with backing from Badoo’s Andrey Andreev, still a partner. Its USP was that women had to make the first move and it has built up huge momentum. Currently there are 35 million registered users with around a million more joining every month. The success of the dating service has led to a friend-finding feature Bumble BFF and professional network Bumble Bizz.

Part of Bumble’s success has been Wolfe Herd’s refusal to allow the site to slip off-message. While she is willing to engage in brand partnerships, she says 95% of brands that approach Bumble are turned away “because they are misaligned with our mission. Brands need to stand for kindness, solve problems. They need to walk the walk.”

Demonstrating a bravery and determination that has been a hallmark of her career, she also banned gun imagery from the site. That led to another wave of anonymous abuse but her view is “why would a site like ours romanticise guns? But one thing I’ve learned is that if you push the limits, you’re going to piss some people off.”


Harriet Palmer