The Garrulous Jay – Tumble Bee

Publish date


It could have been a fairytale. Perhaps not a story of girl-meets-boy, they fall in love, settle down and live happily ever after, like the dreams they try to create for their clients. But for dating app Bumble’s co-founders, a David-versus-Goliath epic in which a slighted employee leaves, starts a rival and wins big.

When I wrote about Bumble’s co-founder Whitney Wolfe Herd back in February 2021 she had just floated the company on NASDAQ, and in the process the 31 year-old had become the world’s youngest ever female billionaire.

She had done this against the backdrop of having split up with her previous employer Match, which owns the Tinder dating app, amid a raft of accusations of harassment.

With Bumble, which focuses on putting women in control of the online dating process, valued at $8 billion back then, perhaps the fairytale story was complete. It certainly hasn’t been a case of “happily ever after”…

Bumble’s share price was at its all time high the day after it floated, at just over $75. Since then Bumble’s tumbled: today it trades at around $14, meaning the company that was once worth over $8 billion is now valued at less than $2 billion.

This year alone the stock price has fallen 40%, partly explaining the announcement on the 6th November that Whitney Wolfe Herd will be standing down as CEO in January.

I don’t profess to be an expert on dating apps, no doubt much to my wife’s relief. But I do think that the Bumble/Wolfe Herd story provides us with an example of how different leaders bring different skills to a company, suited to the different stages in that organisation’s evolution.

I suspect Wolfe Herd was and still is more entrepreneur than business manager: more hunter than gatherer . As such the skills she will have needed when she started Bumble will have been very different to those required to steer an organisation with hundreds of employees.

This may have been exacerbated by the company’s NASDAQ listing, which will have brought with it all the external scrutiny and bureaucracy that comes with being a publicly traded business.

Quoted on CNN Wolfe Herd as good as admitted as much, saying of her new role that it “gives me the ability to…get back to my founder roots and bring immense passion and focus to this next chapter of growth”.

Her replacement, Lidiane Jones, is a seasoned technology professional who has had stints at Microsoft, Sonos and Salesforce. She will be joining Bumble after a short spell as CEO of Slack.

There is an irony in the fact that Wolfe Herd’s biggest mistake may have been not letting go. Had she surrounded herself with the talent she needed to transition the business from a challenger to a major player, she might still be at the helm today.

At the very least the Bumble tumble might not have been quite so pronounced.