DANA POINT, CALIFORNIA – Whitney Wolfe Herd, Founder & CEO of Bumble, shared her insights during Vox Media’s 2023 Code Conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. In her talk, she revealed the unique strategies that transformed Bumble into a $1.9 billion company.
Back in Bumble’s early days, Wolfe Herd made an interesting observation. Apps like Twitter and Instagram were immensely popular, yet they rarely used traditional advertisements. She saw an opportunity to make Bumble as well-known as these social media giants without spending big bucks.
At the time, Bumble operated on a tight budget. So, instead of traditional marketing, Wolfe Herd got creative with a series of “crazy hacks” to generate interest in her Austin-based startup.
One of her quirky ideas involved visiting a local cookie shop with just $20 in hand. She paid the bakers to decorate yellow-frosted cookies with the white Bumble logo. Armed with these custom treats, she made her way to a nearby college sorority.
To entice college students to download and share the app with friends, Wolfe Herd offered fun gifts like balloons, koozies, and yellow Hanky Panky undergarments. A similar approach was used with college fraternities, where she delivered pizzas with Bumble-themed stickers on the boxes.
Wolfe Herd recalls, “We did not have endless marketing dollars… we had to be resourceful. Surprisingly, this led to sorority women and fraternity men downloading the app and making connections. The snowball effect began.”
Bumble was launched in December 2014 with a $10 million investment from Andrey Andreev, Badoo co-founder. However, most of this investment didn’t go into conventional marketing. Instead, when Wolfe Herd noticed signs at local college lecture halls banning the use of social media during class, she took advantage of it. She added Bumble to the list, even though few knew what it was at the time. As a result, app downloads started to soar.
For Wolfe Herd, this momentum validated her unconventional approach. She had faced rejection from previous investors who doubted an app where women initiate conversations with their matches, considering it against the norm. But Wolfe Herd remained determined and focused. “Every time I got a hurtful email or tweet or some investor telling me [the idea for Bumble] was stupid, I just got really excited about it. People generally don’t know how to see things that don’t exist yet, so you just have to believe in yourself,” she explains.
Seven years after Bumble’s launch, Wolfe Herd became the youngest female founder to take a company public. Bumble Inc., which now includes a suite of apps like Bumble and Badoo, is now valued at $1.91 billion.