When it debuted in 1987, the South-by-Southwest festival didn’t seem like it would amount to much. Fast-forward 30 years later, however, and it has firmly cemented its place as one of the most important annual events in the worlds of art, business and tech. Now more of a conglomeration of multiple festivals, SXSW, as it’s typically referred, continues to be held in Austin each spring. It is fitting, then, that Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd will speak there this year.
Along with luminaries like Michael Dell and Melinda Gates—both scheduled to appear as keynote speakers during this year’s event—and an array of other influencers, Herd will share the secrets of her success in the same city where she runs her wildly successful business. Indeed, Bumble, which is now one of the most popular dating apps around, is headquartered in a quiet neighborhood in the Texas capital. When the day arrives for her big speech, then, Herd won’t have far to travel.
The announcement of Herd’s first-time appearance at the annual event should come as no surprise to anyone who pays attention to the world of tech. Married only a few months ago, the entrepreneur only recently added the surname “Herd.” Prior to that, and ever since she was born in Salt Lake City 28 years ago, she was known as Whitney Wolfe. Name aside, the woman herself is admired across the industry and beyond for effecting real, exciting change—and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
If you never partake in online dating, it’s understandable if you’ve never heard of Bumble—and it’s easy to assume that it’s just another tired take on the same old thing. That’s where you’d be wrong, though; along with Andrey Andreev, the man behind Badoo, the largest dating app in the world, Herd developed Bumble with one driving principle in mind: women first. Deceptively simple though it may sound, the concept has revolutionized the way in which men and women interact through dating apps—and it dovetails nicely with events that are currently shaking the world of male-female personal relationships.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are surely aware of the avalanche of women who have been coming forward about sexual abuse and harassment by male cohorts in the business and entertainment industries. Like any woman in tech, Wolfe has encountered her share of sexism too. She likely was strongly influenced by those experiences, in fact, and they probably inspired her to develop the concept behind Bumble.
With the national conversation focusing on concepts like consent and the like lately, Bumble couldn’t have come along at a better time. The very premise of the app is that until the woman sends a message, no conversing can happen. Therefore, the app gives women power, ensuring that they only receive messages back if and when they consent to such interactions.
None of this must be lost on Herd. At just 28 years of age—and as 20-percent owner of Bumble, which was recently valued at well more than $1 billion—she is a bona fide centimillionaire. It’s easy to assume that she has been at it for years and years; the truth is that most of the big, exciting things have happened in the last handful of years. 2017, in particular, was Herd’s year, as her Bumble enterprise expanded in various ways and she tied the knot with longtime love Michael Herd at a hopelessly romantic ceremony on Italy’s Amalfi coast.
There is no question that Herd worked hard to get where she is today, but that isn’t to say that she had a rough and tumble upbringing. On the contrary, Herd was fortunate enough to attend private schools as she grew up. She went on to be a third-generation legacy at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, carrying on a proud family tradition. From there, she launched herself into entrepreneurial pursuits and became involved in the rise of what would become a very popular dating app.
By 2013, however, Herd had become disillusioned for many reasons and was ready to break away from dating app development altogether. Inspired by her experiences, she dreamt up an app called Merci that would serve as a social networking platform in which women inspire and build each other up. As fate would have it, however, she ran into Andreev while vacationing in Paris; the rest, as they say, is history.
With the financial backing and support of Andreev, Herd launched Bumble in December 2014. As the first app of its kind, it quickly caught on as more and more women heard about the women-first concept. The company’s revenues surpassed $100 million in 2017, and they are expected to double in 2018.
Bumble quickly and understandably became Herd’s primary focus, but she still managed to squeeze in a phenomenal wedding to Michael Herd in the fall of 2017. Shortly thereafter, she held a launch party for Bumble Bizz, Bumble’s answer to LinkedIn, in New York City. Directly on the heels of that, she made the cover of Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 edition. There is no question about it: Whitney Wolfe Herd truly arrived in 2017.
In addition to Bumble Bizz, Herd and her team have launched Bumble BFF, a platform that women can use to find platonic friends, after learning that many Bumble users wanted friendships with other women too. So far, both offshoots of the original app have enjoyed moderate success; thanks to her phenomenal success in general, however, Herd can afford to bring new innovations to the world even if they don’t ultimately become wildly popular.
After so much went down in 2017, it’s hard to imagine anything topping it for Whitney Wolfe Herd. Given the fact that she’s still a few years away from hitting 30, however, it’s safe to say that she is far from finished. Odds are that 2018 will see many new and exciting developments for the tech entrepreneur—and that’s good news for everyone.