Whitney Wolfe Herd made history last week as the youngest self-made billionaire and the youngest female founder to take a company public in the United States. At 31 years old, the founder of Bumble, the only dating app where women make the first move, headed to Wall Street to take her company public with her majority-female board.
The company priced itself at $2.2 billion in an initial public offering that exceeded expectations and valued the firm at over $7 billion. According to Reuters, Wolfe Herd’s net worth is nearing $2 billion since the company has gone public.
Wolfe Herd is joining a very small group of female billionaires worldwide and female founders who lead IPO’s. Today there are only 336 female billionaires in the world compared to 2,489 male billionaires. Furthermore, according to Insider, out of 442 companies in the United States, there are currently only 21 companies currently trading that have women founders who led them to an IPO. Four of those IPOs occurred in 2020.
As of the third quarter of 2020, Bumble boasted nearly 42 million active users. It has also become one of America’s fastest-growing dating apps since hitting the app store according to Forbes. Wolfe Herd launched Bumble in 2014 after leaving Tinder, where she was vice president of marketing, and filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company.
Bumble began as a more female-friendly version of Tinder but has since evolved into a female-centric social media platform. Since its creation as a dating app, the company has added new features such as Bumble BFF and Bumble Biz. In 2019, the company went so far as to begin offering Women in Bizz, a feature allowing users to filter out men from potential networking connections.
In a securities filing before the company went public, Wolfe Herd described her ambition for Bumble to become a “preeminent global woman’s brand” and a place to meet new people “no matter who you might be looking for, whichever life stage or relationship you’re in.”
As historic as Wolfe Herd’s success is, it is not shocking. Rather what is shocking is the fact that women are still so behind in financial and career success despite the many research studies that indicate that women-led companies outperform those led by men.
Reports have shown that women CEOs in the Fortune 1000 drove three times the returns as S&P 500 enterprises run predominantly by men. Companies with more female executives in decision-making positions continue to generate stronger market returns and superior profits. And having women in leadership roles increased productivity, greater innovation, better decision-making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction. Yet, Wolfe Herd does not have many other women standing in her ranks.
The number of women running Fortune 500 companies hit an all-time record high last year at 37. Although that number is despairingly low, 20 years ago there were only two female-led companies.
Wolfe Herd is working to help other women join her. In 2018, Bumble launched Bumble Fund, a fund that supports early-stage investments in businesses founded and led by women of color and underrepresented groups. The year before it was started “startups with women at the helm received just 2% of all venture capital funding” with Black, Latinx, and women from other underrepresented groups receiving even less.
With a new presidential administration settling in things are looking encouragingly for women. A Pew Research study found that 63% of adults believe that women will gain influence in the next four years. The Biden administration has even announced their plan to establish a Gender Policy Council that will include high-level representation in all offices including the Council on Economic Advisers.
Wolfe Herd may be a little lonely at the top right now but hopefully, she won’t be for long.