Just as Bumble, the dating app that allows women to swipe first, hits a milestone of 100 million users, the company is announcing a major reorganization and rebranding that will make the mission-oriented company the new overseer of its sibling dating app, Badoo. Until now, the two apps had been under the umbrella of the holding company MagicLab. But that company is being renamed Bumble after its flagship product.
On Wednesday, Bumble also announced that the company is bringing on a new president, Tariq Shaukat, previously president of industry products and solutions at Google Cloud. Bumble also announced a new board of directors. Led by chairwoman Ann Mather, the former CFO of Pixar Studios, the Bumble board also includes Pamela Thomas-Graham, the author and former CEO of CNBC; Elisa Steele, the chairwoman of Cornerstone; and Matthew Bromberg, COO of Zynga.
Bumble and Badoo, the largest dating app in the world, together have a base of 600 million users. They were previously overseen by MagicLab, a London-based holding company founded by Russian billionaire Andrey Andreev. But following allegations of misogyny at Badoo, Andreev stepped down and sold his ownership stake in Bumble to the investment giant Blackstone in November 2019.
“They have been really encouraging and supportive of me,” she tells Fast Company. “They trust me. They trust my vision and want to be there as a support system and not a deterrent. They’ve given me the bandwidth to build this company into the company I’d always hoped for it to be. I didn’t always have the freedom or resources to do that to this degree.”
The shift marks a major turning point for Bumble and its founder and group CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, who started Bumble in 2014 as an alternative to male-dominated dating apps like Tinder, which she cofounded and then left in an acrimonious departure that involved Wolfe Herd filing a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit (it was settled). Bumble quickly grew from a counterintuitive premise—what if women made the first move?—into a global brand that stands for far more than just dating. At Bumble, Wolfe Herd has taken on gender and equality issues and infused them into her business. After successfully lobbying for a Texas bill that makes sending unwanted nude images (i.e., dick pics) illegal in Texas, Bumble rolled out an AI-powered filter that can remove lewd photos before user see them. Wolfe Herd has also overseen the growth of Bumble offshoots like Bumble Bizz, a networking app, and Bumble BFF, for connecting with new friends, as well as forays into brick-and-mortar cafe-wine bars.
Now, with this much broader purview, Wolfe Herd is able to realize her vision even further, with promises of more products and lifestyle brands across both apps that reflect Bumble’s mission-first ethos. “By peeling Bumble out from the two apps and putting that as the parent company, the header,” the Bumble and Badoo apps “we now have this one, constructive, cohesive, and unified mission and value set and team that is ultimately one team,” she says.
Already this has led to internal innovations. Fueled by the Black Lives Matter movement, Bumble has pledged that at least 15% of the company’s marketing spend goes to Black-owned businesses. Wolfe Herd adds that the company is doing “a deep audit of our current team to make sure we have a diverse team, not just at the entry level but at senior-level roles. That means actually hiring, promoting, and making sure that representation is broadly reflected across the company.”
“It’s something I’m very passionate about,” she says. “I want to be 100% focused on D&I [diversity and inclusion] and not have it be a check-the-box mechanism. I want this to really touch every component of our business and have a strong impact.”
Bumble is also doing an audit of its product, “making sure it operates and functions in the most equitable and diverse format that best serves people in the margins,” Wolfe Herd says. “How do we make sure the product is serving them well? Where have we hit a blind spot? We are making a very serious commitment to doing the right thing by our users.”
Wolfe Herd now oversees over 750 employees in Austin, London, and Moscow, a big change from her former role overseeing a team that included many longtime friends in a cozy office in Austin. She also has much more involvement in Badoo, whose relationship with Bumble she describes as “two unique siblings living in the same house. They live in harmony, but they learn from each other and grow into the best versions of themselves. There’s not a world where Badoo morphs into Bumble, but there are many practices and policies that we can really link to Badoo. In which case, Badoo evolves into a platform that really exudes the values of the top brand.”
She believes that Bumble can also benefit from Badoo’s global reach. The app has a huge international following, particularly in Europe and Latin America. “Badoo has hundred of millions of users all over the world,” she says. “If we can use Badoo as a catalyst for good, healthy connections in such an isolated moment, I think we have a really stellar opportunity with the Badoo app and the Bumble app.”
Bumble itself has been rapidly scaling and recently hit the 100 million user mark. “There’s a lot of self-boasting that takes place as company’s scale,” Wolfe Herd says. “What I think is so important about the fact that we’ve achieved 100 million users is that 100 million people have subscribed to the idea that not only is it OK for a woman to make the first move, but that’s the way it should be. I’m proud of all those users taking a chance on doing thing differently.”
Shaukat, Bumble’s first-ever president, starts next week. Wolfe Herd described her relationship with him as “yin and yang.”
“I get to dream big and cast a vision and chase down the opportunities of the future, and really chart a path of where I believe we can go and have the most impact for users,” she says. “Then we work through that at a strategic level, and he, in partnership with the leadership team, makes sure it’s executed.”
When asked what the biggest learning curve has been since the reorganization, which began internally six months ago, Wolfe Herd says it’s been balancing work with being the mother of a 7-month-old. “I’ve been a CEO since I was 25,” she says. “The CEO piece feels, on some days, easier than the motherhood piece. I have really tough days. I have days where I feel like a failure and have tremendous guilt. But the advice that my board member, Elisa Steele, gave me is the best advice I’ve ever gotten. “She said, ‘Don’t hold yourself to any system. Don’t say, ‘Oh, you’re with the baby during these hours and you’re working for these hours. Take it day by day. Schedule it day by day.’”
“That has truly been impactful for me.”