Fresh off her company’s Super Bowl ad starring Serena Williams, Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe told BuzzFeed News’ Profile that the success of her suite of women-focused apps comes with great responsibility.
According to Wolfe, the three apps — one for dating, one for professional connections, and one for friendships — now boast 50 million users.
“That’s more than certain countries,” Wolfe said. “You become your own form of government. You can influence people on such a level and it could have a domino effect in society. You have to be a positive influence in this world. And the beauty of technology is that you can tweak it. Yes, you can change it. Laws take a lot of work. Government — we all know it’s not snapping your fingers.”
Wolfe launched Bumble in 2014, shortly after leaving the now ubiquitous dating app Tinder, which she co-founded.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my twenties to very serendipitously land in the tech space with very little background that would ever make me qualify for that,” Wolfe said. “And because of my experience in the dating space I found a lot of things I thought were broken.”
The main fix Bumble found, and one reason for its popularity, was allowing only women to initiate conversations. In so doing, the app figured out how to cut down on the torrents of abuse women suffer online, at least in one area.
“Bumble was a natural reaction to hating the way the internet treated me,” Wolfe said.
It has all culminated in the company’s valuation of more than $1 billion ahead of a potential initial public offering, and a propitiously timed Super Bowl spot with the iconic Williams espousing a message of female empowerment.
Bumble has had some growing pains. In the summer of 2017, BuzzFeed News reported that the company was running its headquarters out of an Austin, Texas luxury high-rise, in violation of local building codes. The arrangement led to deep resentment between Bumble employees, building staff, and residents who couldn’t understand why a thriving startup was hogging the complex’s deluxe amenities. The company subsequently moved into a new building.
“I have not followed a playbook,” Wolfe told Profile. I’ve not followed any rule book. I don’t spend my time reading a lot of leadership books. I have a cardinal rule: I like to just treat my team and react and respond to our users the way I want to be treated.”
Watch Whitney Wolfe’s full interview on BuzzFeed News’s Profile Sunday at 8AM ET.