Bumble Founder Whitney Wolfe Herd's Career Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs Is Good, Really Good

January 20, 2020
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Whitney Wolfe Herd, the founder, and CEO of Bumble, has a lot on her plate—and that’s putting it mildly. In addition to the ubiquitous dating app, the serial entrepreneur oversees Bumble BFF, an app for friends, Bumble Bizz, an app for networking, Chappy, a dating app for gay men, Bumble Mag, a print publication, Bumble Fund, an investment fund for underrepresented female founders, Bumble Beauty, a skincare line, Bumble Brew, a restaurant concept, and a film fund. Oh, and she’s also a new mom.

In other words, Herd’s seemingly simple business idea for developing a dating app in which women make the first move has grown into an empire worth $3 billion. (Yes, billion with a b). Ahead, she shares the secret to merging creativity and science to create a successful (and profitable) business model, the team-building tactic she relies on for facing challenges head-on, and the best advice she’s ever received, courtesy of Gloria Steinem, of course.

CREATE & CULTIVATE: Bumble’s mission has always been about bettering the world we live in, not only in the app but in your company culture, too. How did this MO originate? How does it impact the culture? How do you communicate the importance of change-making to your team?

WHITNEY WOLFE HERD: Our mission has always been to better the world by helping to end misogyny. This started with empowering women to make the first move in our app, and in the past five years, we’ve added a raft of safety measures in hopes of truly making the online world safer for women. Our values permeate our workplace culture; our brand couldn’t exist without our mission, which was baked in from day one. As for our team, our C-suite is 95% women, which can’t be said for any other tech companies. Change starts at the top!

You are not averse to facing a challenge head-on. When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you #FindNewRoads + switch gears to find success?

I realized long ago that you have to hire your weaknesses. While my background and expertise were as a marketer, I’m not an operations expert nor a design guru. Luckily, as the company’s grown, we’ve been able to attract incredible talent to our Austin, TX home base and indeed in offices around the world including London and Sydney. 

How do you define an entrepreneur? How do you define your unique approach?

An entrepreneur sees a problem and sets out to solve it, often taking a risk in the process. My approach has always been to learn from even the most ostensibly negative or traumatic experiences, including a sexual harassment lawsuit against a former employer (it was settled), to inform our mission and strategy.

Bumble is here because of innovation and your ability to fuse creativity with business. We’d love to know, how do you find that balance? What’s the secret to merging art and science to create a successful (and profitable) business model?

The secret to success is really just hard work and a team that, as we’ve scaled, has poured hustle and heart into every facet of this company, often behind the scenes. I may be the face of the brand as the founder and CEO, but Bumble’s success is equally due to this team, from the customer service reps answering app users’ late-night queries to engineers working heads-down to ensure a new feature rolls out smoothly.

You’re always working on the next project and looking for ways to innovate? So, what inspires you? What keeps you motivated and driven?

Misogyny is the smoking of our generation. It’s dangerous, and it can kill. I won’t stop until all forms of sexism and discrimination against women are history.

You were recently involved in passing a bill in Texas to outlaw unsolicited nudes. What made you decide to take on legislative change? And what success have you seen already both legally and via the feedback from the Bumble community?

Our team was doing some research and realized that, while it’s a crime to pull your pants down in the streets, there was no legislation in place to deter the sort of digital indecent exposure women, unfortunately, deal with all the time. So we worked closely with politicians from both sides of the aisle in our home state of Texas, and the sending of a lewd photo without the recipient’s consent became a Class C misdemeanor this fall. We’re now speaking with lawmakers in other states, so watch this space. So far, the feedback we’ve received from our community and from commentators outside it has been overwhelmingly positive.

What do you wish people knew about being an entrepreneur?

It certainly isn’t all glitz and glamour. In fact, I spend more hours than most people would imagine on phone calls at anti-social hours to various time zones, or up half the night racked with anxiety about how a new feature will be received. In fact, many entrepreneurs I’ve met in the course of my career are, like me, introverts at heart.

You launched an investment fund to help other female entrepreneurs. What do you look for in a business when you consider investing?

We’re aiming to build a bigger table in the world of venture capital, so right now we’re focused on investing early-stage, and in businesses founded and led by women of color and those from underrepresented groups. We’re especially interested in companies solving a problem that disproportionately affects women.

What is the best advice you’ve received? Or your favorite piece of #realtalk?

Gloria Steinem is scheduled to pay a visit to Bumble HQ for a Q+A as she goes cross-country on her book tour, so I’ve been revisiting her writing from over the years. Some words of wisdom that speak to me: “Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself.”

Bumble has taken on dating, friendship, networking, and even has a beauty line in the works, it seems like anything is possible. So, what is next for Bumble?

We’re excited to open the doors to Bumble Brew in New York’s Soho. It’ll be a cafe by day and wine bar by night, with regular programming and events. Most of all, we hope it’ll be a safe, empowering space for our community to bring their Bumble dates.

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