Whitney Wolfe—CEO

by Kristine Bigcas

Whitney Wolfe is an American entrepreneur, humanitarian, co-founder of Tinder, and the founder and CEO of Bumble. She is also a supporter of women in the tech industry. In fact, she has been in the Business Insider’s 30 Most Important Women Under 30 in Tech. She was reached by Andrey Andreev in 2014 to become a partner in a new company. Their new project, Bumble, was a dating platform with reinvented specifications that is most beneficial for women. As of February 2017, there are about 12.5 million users all over the world.

She has been the center of controversy when she filed a lawsuit against the executives of Tinder for sexual harassment. The legal case has long been settled by both parties. Whitney received a settlement and has chosen to keep the rest of the events of the trial be kept in secrecy. To this day, she continues to be the CEO of Bumble and is planning on releasing better features of the app as well as extension apps.

Early Life and Family

She was born in 1990 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her parents are Michael and Kelly Wolfe. Her dad is a property developer while her mom was a housemaker. When she reached college, she studied at Southern Methodist University taking up International Studies. While studying, she started her own small business by selling bamboo tote bags. All proceeds of the bag are directed to the BP oil spill that happened in the Gulf of Mexico. She was still 19 at that time but she was able to partner with celebrity stylist Patrick Aufdenkamp and together they had launched the Help Us Project, which was recognized by the press. Celebrities like Rachel Zoe and Nicole Richie have made the bags popular to the public after they were photographed carrying the bag. Whitney then traveled to Southeast Asia and worked with orphanages after she graduated college.

Personal Life

Relationship with Justin Mateen

Whitney dated Justin Mateen, one of the men behind Tinder. He is a graduate of USC Marshall School of Business and now works as a chief marketing officer during the time Whitney was still with the company. On November 11, 2012, Justin invited Whitney to his home where he expressed his feelings for her and his intentions of pursuing her. It wasn’t until February of the next year that they officially started dating. During his time of confession, Justin has expressed his unreadiness of committing in a monogamous relationship.

While the Tinder App gained momentum and got more popular to the public, the relationship of Whitney with Justin has been the complete opposite. They have broken up sometime in November 2013 just before he and Sean Rad, the CEO of Tinder, have stripped her of her title. In the official copy of the “Complaint for Damages” released by Rudy Exelrod Zieff & Lowe, it said,

Mr. Mateen told Ms. Wolfe that the reason she could no longer hold herself out as a co-founder was that she was a 24-year old “girl” with little experience. Once again he said that holding her out as a co-founder “makes the company look like a joke” and “devalues the company.” Mr. Mateen tried to justify the situation by saying “Facebook and Snapchat don’t have girl founders, it just makes it look like Tinder was some accident.” Further, as Mr. Rad informed Ms. Wolfe, IAC would not let her be publicly recognized as a co-founder.

She gave the relationship another chance in hopes that the abuse she has been getting from Justin would stop but eventually ended any relations with him on December 12, 2013. This resulted in more abuse from him. She was called “disgusting,” “a desperate loser,” and a “joke” in front of other employees. She has reported this to Sean but her complaints fell on deaf ears. She received angry and aggressive texts, which she presented in court as evidence of her complaint. In one account he has told other executives, particularly Sean Rad, Joshua Metz, and Rosette Pambakian (VP Communication), that she was “an alcoholic who lost control” despite no evidence of her having alcoholic problems. He has also called her “a whore” and “a gold digger” among other things.

After the event, Whitney couldn’t see herself working for the company especially with him around anymore. However, Justin’s friend and CEO of Tinder, Sean, allegedly forced her to resign. In her complaint, it was stated,

In the communications that followed over the next twenty-four hours, Mr. Rad bullied Ms. Wolfe into “resigning.” He told her that “things were going to get ugly.” Ms. Wolfe, beaten down by the abuse and fearing for her reputation if she was fired ostensibly for performance reasons, texted Mr. Rad that she would leave peacefully if she could get a reasonable amount of severance and her vested equity. However, Mr. Rad rejected that. When Ms. Wolfe requested the opportunity to talk with Mr. Rad about how much longer she would continue working at Tinder, Mr. Rad responded that “Your employment continuing is not likely an option at this point.

All the abuse inflicted to her were detailed when she filed a case against him and other executives of Tinder. He was suspended and he eventually resigned after the legal procedures rolled out. Whitney received a $1,000,000 settlement with no admission of wrongdoing from the camp of Tinder and stocks in the company.

Relationship with Michael Herd

Valentine’s Day in 2014, she has met the Texan oil scion Michael Herd on a ski trip to Aspen. She immediately recognized his face as one of the faces she saw in a dating app she used before. Michael’s family owns over 400 oil and gas wells in Texas and he is also an active executive member as the vice president of the Herd Producing Co. and is the president of the Bob L. Herd Foundation. He grew up in Dallas, Texas, and studied at the W.T. White High School before pursuing his degree at Texas Tech.

In the same month that Whitney and he met each other, he has donated $1 million dollars to his alma mater, Texas Tech, particularly in their Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering. His donation was named Michael Herd Fracturing and Production Laboratory. In his statement, he said, “As a graduate of Texas Tech and an independent oil man, I want to make sure our graduates are the most competent and capable individuals ready for the oil and gas industry.”

They got engaged in 2016 in Texas during a horseback riding trip. Michael got down on one knee with the sunset in view. Whitney made the announcement on her Instagram account.

Contributions to the Tech World

She first worked for Hatch Labs when she was 22 years old. She worked on a project that was led by Sean Rad using the Labs IAC incubator and was called Cardify. However, they discontinued the project and later focused on developing Tinder with Chris Gulczynski and Justin Mateen. She is said to have originated the name of the app and was responsible for marketing the app in colleges and universities. She once flew to her alma matter for the promotion of it. She left Tinder in 2014 after she was stripped of her title and was bullied into resigning.

She then moved to Austin, Texas, after Andrey Andreev reached out to her for a partnership. Andrey was the founder of another social dating app but now defunct Badoo. Whitney founded her own app called Bumble where women get to have more control than men. It was launched in December 2014 and has reached over 80 million matches just a year after.

Recognition and Awards

In 2014, she was included in the 30 Most Important Women Under 30 in Tech. Two years later she was included in Elle’s list of Women in Tech, and in 2017 she was included in the 2017 Forbes 30 under 30.

Net Worth

Although she has left Tinder, which was worth $5 billion, Whitney has already made a huge investment in her own personal net worth. As of 2017, reports worldwide suggest that she currently has a value of $250 million. Meanwhile, Bumble, the social dating app she founded, is preparing for the launch of BumbleBIZZ and BumbleBFF with a current value of $500 million according to TIME.