Not playing the field, levelling it: What we can learn from Whitney Wolfe Herd, Bumble (& Tinder)

By Guest Contributor Katy Mousinho and Giles Lury

Katy Mousinho’s and Giles Lury’s Wonder Women tells the stories of some of the women who have had a tremendous influence on the marketing industry, like Brownie Wise, who transformed Tupperware and Mary Wells Lawrence, who founded advertising agency Wells, Rich, Greene. Today we look to Whitney Wolfe Herd, most well known for her instrumental role at Bumble.

After her first experience, Whitney Wolfe Herd had no real plans to return to the world of online dating, but back she went, and what she created has helped transform the market. At age 22, Wolfe Herd had joined Hatch Labs, and through them she became involved with a start-up called Cardify, which was a project led by Sean Rad. The project was abandoned, but through the connections she had made, Wolfe Herd joined a dating app start=up with Rad and Chris Gulczynski.

Wolfe Herd became Vice President of Marketing for Tinder. The name was her idea, a combination of the flame logo and her practice of having used tinder to start fires at her father’s cabin in Montana. She is also credited with building ints popularity by focusing on college campuses to grow its early user base.

Two years after joining, however, Wolfe Herd left the company, suing for sexual harassment. Despite a reported settlement of more than $1 million, she became the subject of abuse. It became so bad that looking back, Whitney Wolfe Herd remembers being in a “perpetual state of sheer and utter anxiety. I did not want to leave my house.” She was a target for misogyny at levels she didn’t realize existed.

“Hate was just coming at me at all times. I always knew toxic masculinity was an issue, but I’d never seen it at such a scale.”

So, not surprisingly, her next idea was nothing to do with dating. Instead, she worked on an idea of an online social space for women. She pitched her idea to Russian billionaire and founder of dating app Badoo, Audrey Andreev. He wasn’t taken with the idea but liked her “passion and energy”. He suggested she return to her area of expertise – dating apps.

Wolfe Herd pitched numerous other ideas before presenting one Andreev was willing to back. Looking back at the interview with Clare O’Connor for Forbes in November 2017, Wolfe Herd remembers her pitch:

“What if women make the first move, send the first message? And if they don’t, the match disappears after 24 hours, like in Cinderella, the pumpkin and the carriage? It’d be symbolic of a Sadie Hawkins dance – going after it, girls ask first. What if we could hardwire that into a product?”

Andreev loved the idea of putting women in control and agreed to put up an initial $10 million for approximately 80% of the company. He also agreed to let Wolfe Herd have access to Badoo’s software and systems. Bumble was born in December 2014 and clearly struck a chord with many women; the app had 100,000 downloads in its first month.

Bumble’s feminist approach to dating and Wolfe Herd’s flair for marketing shone through its advertising. Billboards read, “Be the CEO your parents always wanted you to marry,” and “We’re not playing the field, we’re just levelling it.” Bumble quickly became America’s fastest-growing dating app with users.

In 2016, Bumble launched BFF, an app that is meant to help women find friends, not dates. It followed this up with Bizz, which focused on women meeting other women for the purpose of career networking. Bumble is run by a majority-female career networking. Bumble is run by a majority-female executive team and is now reportedly valued at more than $1 billion, and Wolfe Herd was named one of Business INsider’s ’30 Most Important Women Under 30, In Tech in 2014.’ In 2016, she was named as one of Elle’s ‘Women in Tech.’ She was named in Forbes ’30 Under 30′ in 2017 and 2018.

To read more stories of inspiring women in marketing and interviews with influencers in the industry who talk about their experience and the future of marketing, grab your copy of Wonder Women. Details below.


KATY MOUSINHO is now enjoying a life of ‘freedom and flexibility’, having forsaken the world of full-time working to pursue multiple activities including writing, health and fitness, travel and helping out small businesses with their brand and marketing strategy. As former managing Director of The Value Engineers and with 30 years’ experience in insight and brand strategy, she has gained a broad perspective on the world of consumers and brand, having worked with a diverse range of clients across categories and countries.  


GILES LURY is a VW Beetle-driving, Lego watch-wearing Disney-loving, Chelsea supporting father of five who also happens to be a director of brand consultancy at The Value Engineers and author of The Prisoner and the Penguin, How Coca-Cola Took Over the World, and Inspiring Innovation




Suggested Reading

Every marketer knows the stories of Lord Lever and Steve Jobs, has probably read AI Ries and Jack Trout, and seen the works of Bill Bernbach and John Hegarty. What’s interesting about these ‘Masters of Marketing’ is that they are all men. Katy Mousinho’s and Giles Lury’s Wonder Women tells the stories of some of the women who have had a tremendous influence on the marketing industry, like Brownie Wise, who transformed Tupperware and Mary Wells Lawrence, who founded advertising agency Wells, Rich, Greene.  

There are also interviews with Edwina Dunn OBE – the co-founder of Dunnhumby and the data behind the Tesco Clubcard; Helle Muller Peterson – Senior Vice President, Arla Foods Denmark and previously the only female country CEO in Carlsberg, plus many more. Mousinho and Lury pull together their findings, not only to celebrate their success, but to provide insights for the future of marketing and the great marketers, women and men, to come. 

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