If you’re familiar with the world of online dating, you most likely understand the premise—swipe right if you’re interested, swipe left if you’re not. With modern dating so rudimentary, how has Bumble become a publicly traded, billion-dollar sensation?
Year over year since 2014, Bumble has steadily gained market share and made its way into smartphones across the world. Bumble’s entire app was centered around dating for women—what they’re looking for, what makes them comfortable, and has grown exponentially due to the creator's ability to infer what features would benefit women as their user base grew.
A brief look at key data for Bumble makes it clear that just because this app was created by women for women, it’s not to be underestimated. Creators of Tinder, Hinge, and other top-of-the-line competitors no doubt were not prepared for the dating app giant that Bumble would become—in just a short 7 years, might I add.
Throughout this growth study, you will gain an understanding of how Bumble came to be, how they’re setting precedents for dating culture, and how their strategy to become a one-stop shop for women’s social needs continues to bring them to the top.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Whitney Wolfe Herd is the co-founder and CEO of Bumble. Before Bumble came to be, Whitney had long had the entrepreneurial spirit. While attending college at Southern Methodist University in Texas, she started her first business at the young age of 19.
Always an activist, Whitney was inspired to create bamboo tote bags to benefit people affected by the BP oil spill in 2010. She managed to enlist celebrity stylist Patrick Aufdenkamp and the Help Us Clean Up Project was born. The project gained significant press and attention after celebrities like Nicole Richie were seen wearing the bamboo tote.
With humanitarianism in her blood, Whitney was driven to Southeast Asia after college where she volunteered with local orphanages. Her background and desire to help people and use her space on this earth for good would eventually tie into her unfounded success as a billionaire woman with a billion-dollar app for women.
Following her non-profit stint in college and her overseas efforts, Whitney began working on a start-up project in 2012 with Sean Rad, the founder of Tinder. This initial start-up was not Tinder but a different tech project called Cardify. Cardify was a platform that aimed to help retailers reward their customer base with simple loyalty solutions. This project was abandoned, however, and space became available for the creation of Tinder, the leading dating app in the world.
After abandoning Cartify, Sean Rad and Whitney worked together to create Tinder and kicked off a global sensation that would change the world of online dating. The swipe and match feature became the door to online dating for Millennials, and is all Gen Z has ever known. The premise of making a split-second decision based on a photo just made sense in our world of instant gratification and ease of access.
On September 12, 2012, Tinder was released and the game had begun. By 2013, the app had seen 10 million downloads and had one million users in the first year. Tinder amassed its user base by marketing directly to its demographic—colleges and young adults. Everything that Tinder became was built on this premise—to design a dating app and company practices that resonated with young people.
Together with Sean, Whitney is credited as a co-founder of Tinder and became the VP of Marketing for the entire company at just 22 years old. Her years at Tinder and her unique insight into the creation and targeted marketing of the dating app sensation would serve greatly in her success with her own app, Bumble.
In 2014, Whitney left Tinder and filed claims of sexual harassment. The separation was messy and ripe with legalities, a lawsuit, and a million-dollar, out-of-court settlement. While she had a rough go at it for a while and experienced online hate and furthered misogyny, this experience pushed her to rewrite the narrative—birthing Bumble, a women’s first dating app and a premise that had never been done before.
While Herd’s experience at Tinder was a publicly painful one, without it she might have never had the inspiration to create Bumble in its current image. Herd’s combination of experiences with non-profits and misogyny in the workplace led to a billion-dollar industry leader that consistently makes strides for women everywhere.
Following her departure from Tinder in April of 2014, Whitney wasted no time launching Bumble and it was brought to the market as a female-centric, women-empowering dating app by December of 2014.
Leaving Tinder, Whitney knew she would be a competitor but she had a much bigger vision for Bumble than to simply be “Tinder for women”. She envisioned Bumble as a platform for women’s romantic connections but also for all social connections. She knew that it can be difficult for women to make friends, or to network, and wanted to offer a dating solution, but also a social solution around the woman's experience.
She began this evolution by changing one key feature of Bumble that no other dating app had—and still doesn’t have. When a male and female match on the app, the man cannot message the woman. The woman must first reach out to initiate the conversation, leaving the ultimate power up to a woman’s comfortability to engage with said man.
Investing in the Female Experience
With one feature, Whitney Wolfe Herd managed to spark a global conversation around power dynamics in relationships and start the process of throwing out outdated ideas of how men and women should interact when dating. While it may seem like all fun and games, what she’s done here is truly start to fight the patriarchy in the best way she knew how.
Empowering women is only the first step in breaking down age-old customs of misogyny, entitlement, and abuse in male/female relationships. On a larger scale, this is the beginning of a domino effect that will hopefully change dating norms for years to come.
While the app is successful, the movement is endless. For social proof, Bumble even has a list of success stories on their website highlighting couples that matched, fell in love, and have created a healthy and balanced life together—built on the idea of being respectful, engaged equals.
Living, Breathing, Employing Activism
In a survey of nearly 2400 American women and gay/bisexual men, it was found that 91% of the focus group had been sent an unsolicited nude picture that resulted in negative feelings about the encounter.
Furthering her contribution to breaking gender norms and protecting women from the pitfalls (to say it nicely) of online dating, Herd has continued to fight for women’s rights. From her experiences in the background of the online dating world, she was plenty aware of the harassment that can be present within these apps.
In 2019, Herd pushed Texas lawmakers on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee to make unsolicited “sexting” pictures a crime. Her argument was that indecent exposure on the streets is a crime, so that sentiment should be mirrored digitally as well. By June of 2019, and largely thanks to Whitney Herd, digital sexual harassment in Texas would become a misdemeanor with a $500 fine attached.
Bumble has proven that you can be an advocate for your user base without degradation to your bottom line. By fighting for users' right to privacy and safety, Bumble has shown that advocacy and money can be your legacy.
CEO Whitney Herd was fully equipped with the tools she needed to make Bumble a roaring dating sensation. Her background as a key player in the rise of Tinder and her unmatched expertise in the world of dating app marketing was just the toolbelt she needed to bring a world-class competitor to the space—and to do it her way.
When creating Bumble, Herd employed the same marketing strategy as with Tinder and it served the app well. Bumble focuses on marketing to colleges and young adult users but has set itself apart by creating a dating culture that values connection over hook-ups.
Social Media Marketing: Putting Your Money Where Your Users Are
Bumble is equally represented and visually branded on all social media platforms, from Instagram to Snapchat to Youtube. Across these platforms, Bumble has built more than just sales pages that only seek conversion. The dating app has actually initiated a conversation and a more thoughtful user experience that aims to speak to the dating world.
By enlisting offset accounts like @OverheardBumble, they’re highlighting funny conversations that take place on the app and furthering the conversation around their platform.
In 2020, Bumble launched a series on Youtube titled “Dating These Days” that features conversations around dating in India.
They employ the use of micro-influencers to spread their message and this ambassador-focused marketing allows potential users to hear the Bumble brand story from a real person. This helps add to the legitimacy of their brand and further their social proof of success on the platform.
Across all platforms, Bumble keeps the same message of empowerment, equality, and activism in the dating space. They offer advice, educational perspective, and positive messaging that is perfectly in line with their mission. This cohesive branding across all platforms has resonated with their followers in a way that makes Bumble more than just a dating app—it’s a lifestyle brand. By positioning themselves as an educator, connector, and advocate, they’ve managed to exponentially grow their user base from zero to double-digit millions.
Again focusing on their demographic and what they would enjoy, Bumble put a spin on dating events. They have held singles events in cities where they effectively create a “Bumble Hive” for a day in a specified location. These events feature food, drinks, networking, and activities that would be interesting to their base. Users can follow The Beehive Bumble Event Calendar for a full list of events related to Love, Friendship, Career, Wellness, and Campus events.
In keeping with their activist culture, Bumble also hosts events and contests that work to promote social issues. From Operation Hometown, an Austin Giveback event, to LGBTQ+ Pride parties, Bumble is loud and clear about where it stands along the political divide.
Bumble has always had a crystal clear vision of who their demographic is and what they would be interested in. By catering to their demographic in an innovative and engaging way, they’ve made more than strides in user base—they’ve created a community, a movement, and a legacy.
Bumble BFF: Lovers & Friends
With Whitney Herd’s vision as their North Star, Bumble began to grow its offerings. In 2016, just two years after their initial launch, Bumble launched Bumble BFF. This feature allows users to switch from dating mode to friend mode and connects them with potential friends in their area.
This keystone feature uses Facebook behavior between friends to offer potential matches on the app. This is a great addition for people that have moved to a new city and are looking for their people, or for users in their hometown looking to connect with new friends that share similar interests. By giving space for friends to connect based on their algorithm, the process is much more comfortable and targeted than trying to meet and make friends on traditional social media apps.
Music: More Than Just a Photo
In 2016, Bumble announced a partnership with Spotify. They took it back to the basics with what could easily be argued as inspiration from the platform that started it all—Myspace. By allowing users to link their Spotify accounts and feature their favorite artists on their profile, they’ve effectively deepened the connection you can gain from a single dating profile.
Music is a common denominator for many romantic and friendly connections, making it the perfect addition and competitive differentiator to their platform. With the integration, a user’s Spotify preferences are linked to their profile, and viewers of the profile can click the link to be taken to the artist's Shopify page for exploration.
Bumble for Bizz: Date, Socialize, & Network
In 2017, Bumble launched the next step towards its North Star—Bumble Bizz. Bumble Bizz would be the third mode on Bumble’s platform, creating a simple and professional space for users to network in their area. Similar to LinkedIn in profile features, Bumble Bizz differentiates their feature by not positioning themselves as a job search or hiring platform.
Bumble Bizz is a space for users to fill out their skillset, upload a resume, and post professional pictures to connect with other users. Women are still required to make the first move in Bumble Bizz, reinforcing the message that whether romantic or otherwise, all men and women interactions should be comfortable and welcome.
Keeping it to Bumble: Calling & Video Features
The aim of apps and websites is all the same — keep your users on your app for as long as possible. Cater to their needs and desires in a way that keeps them on your app, your ability to drive revenue directly correlates with time spent by your user base.
By adding calling capabilities directly from the app in 2019, Bumble eliminated the need for users to exchange phone numbers before they were ready. This benefit is two-fold. It strengthens their message of comfortability and safety for women by allowing them to protect their personal information until they are comfortable and it keeps users on the app for as long as possible.
Along with simple messaging and calling features, Bumble allows users to make video calls as well. This simple, yet key feature, is a great way for users to interact, build trust, and ultimately move online dating to the real world with a lessened threat to safety and lowered potential risk.
Looking at the features that set them apart from other competitors, it’s clear that Bumble’s goal is to be a one-stop shop for their user base. In the way that Instagram and Facebook have become retailers, Bumble’s strategy is to serve as the “hub of connection” for all random social connections. In an age where meeting new people can be an anxiety-ridden and difficult task, they want to be the segue for all human interaction.
Perhaps one of Bumble’s strongest marketing strategies is its key content marketing. By growing their user base around many interests, i.e. dating, relationships, friends, music, business, they have opened up their ability to create curated content plans exponentially.
Content marketing is the creation of consumable content for your audience that keeps them engaged with your brand across their digital lives. Social media posts, Youtube videos, and blogs are all considered content marketing. Bumble has thrived in its ability to take one brand and give it several avenues of relevant content to create. While we’ve discussed this in terms of their social media strategy, their blog content is equally noteworthy.
Blogs allow brands to educate their audience and position themselves as experts in the topics of their industry and are an asset for organic web traffic. What Bumble has done with this is allow themselves to create informative blogs relevant to all of their industry ties and educate the internet with their articles. Not only is it great for keeping their users invested and engaged with the Bumble experience, but they’re allowing more and more organic users across the web to find and connect with them based on their interests.
Bumble’s blog is called “The Buzz,” an adorable play on words that strengthens their brand. In The Buzz, you can search for relevant or trending blog topics related to Love, Friendship, Career, Wellness, How-To, and Events.
They’re increasing their SEO and benefitting their brand from a digital marketing standpoint but they’re actually doing so much more. By educating their users on topics like Sex & Covid, How to Take Great Pics, or Working from Home Tips Bumble users have a wealth of relevant knowledge at their disposal, taking Bumble from connection resource to information resource.
While The Buzz does feature relevant topics on all the above categories, Bumble’s blog content ranges from helpful information to relevant brands to featured entrepreneurs or promotions. In Events, they share event information, but also contest and company information such as a commitment to donate $5,000 to your favorite LGBTQ+ organization, monthly book clubs, and Bumble’s Black Lives Matter stance.
By creating content that attracts and keeps the attention of multiple audiences, Bumble has found yet another way to keep its users engaged with their brand. While this does help their overall business growth, it works well because the content truly benefits the user. In the age of muddied content and digital marketing, a business’ content must truly feel authentic and add value to the user for this method of marketing to be successful.
A Clear Business Position: Feminists Against Misogyny
Bumble stood out from its competition from the very beginning by being a women-centric dating app but the brand continues to amplify this message in all that they do. Staying true to their activist culture, Bumble has left no one guessing about where they stand when it comes to what’s acceptable in relationships and what they think society should do about it.
After lobbying in Texas to make sending unsolicited lewd photos a crime, CEO Whitney Herd took the issue to the state of California, where the event can result in a harassment charge or a lawsuit in civil court.
If you think back to the summer of 2020, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, businesses across the country were showing their support for the movement through public addresses or staying eerily silent on the matter. Not only did Bumble express their support for the movement, but they have always been incredibly clear on their position as it relates to social issues.
In a time when issues like LGBTQ+ rights, BPOC rights, and women’s rights are largely political issues, many companies choose to fall silent so as to not upset their customer base. Bumble has done the opposite, gaining great praise amongst consumers that like to know where the companies they support stand on certain issues.
Leading By Example—Literally
Bumble has proven that they do more than just talking about issues, they actually are about issues—and advocating for change.
The app has made public examples out of men that have used their platform for abuse and harassment, followed by blocking the individuals from using their services. These public displays followed by actions prove that Bumble is insistent on creating a safe space where its users feel comfortable and welcome. They’ve made it abundantly clear that they will not do business with people that violate their terms or their values, setting them apart from other companies that might sweep scandals or abuse under the rug.
When Bumble’s sister company Badoo, the leading dating app in Europe, had a scandal involving misogyny and company culture, Herd wasted no time addressing the claims on behalf of Bumble. While she stated that her experiences with the company were nothing short of pleasant and appropriate since the creation of Bumble, she said they would be following the investigation and she would be an ally to any person that wanted to confide in her.
Less than a year later, Andrey Andreev, the owner of Badoo and co-founder of Bumble, sold his stake in MagicLabs, parent company to Badoo and Bumble. Bumble suddenly had a new partnership with leading entrepreneur-led Blackstone and was effectively distanced from the scandal.
Changing Contemporary Trends
From the beginning, it was clear that Bumble would be a business that was intent on making social change. From hookup culture, gender norms, and the ways people connect, Bumble took on a myriad of causes and has held onto those core values with an iron fist.
No user of Bumble should be unclear on what the expectations for the app are and as the user base grows, so does the conversation about equality, women empowerment, and social change. They have created a culture where women are comfortable, respected, and the men on the app have to be okay with that.
This idea of being more than a simple “swipe right/left” is revolutionizing what online dating can be. In a time where hookup culture is rampant and many apps seem to facilitate this, Bumble encouraged and set the stage for serious and respectful new age dating.
When a company develops a clear brand image, stance, and an unfaltering voice, the right users will abound. By staying outspoken, true to their values, and transparent along the way, Bumble reinforces their relationship with their audience and builds trust in their brand. Doing so increases brand loyalty and word of mouth attention, furthering their reach and influence.
Chapter Seven: Building More than Just Buzz
Knowing Bumble’s brand and marketing approach is one thing, letting those strategies prove themselves is another. In this chapter, we’ll take a look at how Bumble’s user base has grown through the years, how they make their money, and the effects of becoming a publicly-traded company in early 2021.
Bumble User Growth Through the Years
In their first year of launch, Bumble was able to acquire 1 million users, right on track with Tinder’s first year online. By 2016, the app had amassed 8 million users. From 2016-2017, Bumble saw its smallest year of user growth, adding only 4 million users. At this time, key features like BFF and the Spotify integrations were launched.
Each year following, Bumble managed to up their platform users by nearly 10 million users each year from 2017-2020.
Bumble Revenue Growth Through the Years
As their audience and user base grew, so did their revenue. From 2014-2021, Bumble was able to grow its revenue by nearly $100 million year over year, reaching a yearly revenue of $337 million in 2020. It’s important to note that they saw a $100 million dollar revenue growth during 2020 when lockdowns from the COVID-19 virus were in full swing and people weren’t meeting up with strangers in person.
Bumble makes their money by charging a subscription fee to their users for increased features and capabilities. While online businesses make money from advertising or partnerships, it was reported that this revenue only accounted for 3% of the company’s total revenue in 2019.
With 2.5 million users opting to pay the monthly subscription price, it has been estimated that these users spend nearly $26 per month on the app, which is about $8 per month more than non-subscribed users. Bumble is said to have a paid conversion rate of about 9% across its free user base.
Going Public: Bumble’s IPO
In February of 2021, Bumble became a publicly-traded company with its initial public offering raising $2.15 billion. Hitting the stock market at $43 per share, shares were up 77% to $76 each on the very first day, giving the dating app giant its $8.3 million dollar valuation. With a 52 week high of about $80/share, Bumble stock prices have fallen back to IPO prices at the time of this writing (July 2021). While some experts view the stock as risky, others predict a full rebound for the newly traded company.
After going public, CEO Whitney Herd became the youngest self-made woman billionaire at 31 years old with a net worth of $1.2 billion.
It’s easy to look at a marketing strategy and believe there is merit there but the proof is in the pudding. In Bumble’s case, they have all the proof they need. Along with year-over-year growth in users and revenue, Bumble continues to make strides in its accomplishments by exceeding market predictions on its first day publicly traded.
The Future of Bumble
A booming seven-year success story, it’s natural to question what the future has in store for Bumble. From their female-led staff to their undeniable success, we’ll analyze what the future holds for this feminist brand and the billions they’re valued at.
Bumble has made their own predictions on the future of online dating and from that, we can infer the vision they have for their company moving forward. In a blog titled, “The Future of Dating: Where Relationships are Heading,” a Bumble author predicts that AI will make significant advancements in 2024 as it applies to language translation and that dating norms will change. The author predicts that more women will wait for marriage, virtual romance with VR technology may be a player, hookup culture will die, and more long-distance relationships will prosper.
Through this insight and Bumble’s past decisions, we can infer that wherever the trends may take us, Bumble will be prepared to keep up. Bumble has made it a point to be as innovative in space as they can be, which leads us to believe we should expect more of this in the future.
While it’s unknown exactly what the future holds or what the valuation of Bumble will climb to, based on past data, it’s reasonable enough to believe they will continue to gain market share in the online dating world and continue to increase their revenue year over year.
With revenue and profit at their disposal, we can hope that they will continue to invest in causes they hold dear and uphold their mission of enacting change amongst the younger generations. With more money and profits, it’s possible that Bumble could enlist more “Give Back” features like those that are currently in place. Last year, Bumble committed to donating one million dollars across five justice organizations that benefit people of color and enlisted a donation feature that supports fighting laws against women for every first message sent on Bumble.
It’s reasonable to infer that the activism that rings true to the brand will continue on as their revenue increases and they are able to do more with what they have.
Since their start in 2014, Bumble has had a clear brand image and story across all platforms and in all their engagements—to fight against biases and support marginalized people everywhere. They’ve implemented effective marketing and enjoyable marketing in their brand, that easily attracts new users, but more so, they’ve upheld those initial attractions by enriching their brand with informative, relatable content and messaging.
Their initial “pro-female” empowerment stance set them apart from every competitor out there and they continued to differentiate themselves with the features and offerings they made available to their user base. By only allowing women to make the first contact, by offering friend search services and networking opportunities, and by adding unique integrations like video-calling and music sharing, Bumble stood out with its innovation and intuition.
Following through with what set them apart (their mission and their features), they furthered their separation in the industry by appealing to a very specific demographic. If you were a woman who was nervous about the world of online dating or had poor experiences in the past, it suddenly became easy to decide which platform to use to start looking for love. Where other apps seemed to view dating as a game, Bumble set themselves apart by valuing the user and targeting a demographic within the typical demographic.
As mentioned above, Bumble has never been a company to shy away from uncomfortable conversations or public issues. By positioning themselves as an advocate for their user base, they yet again managed to separate themself from their competitors and gain good faith from their audience.