In the nine years since she founded the dating app Bumble at the age of 24, Whitney Wolfe Herd has led several versions of the company. First, she was a hyper-visible founder backed by a quiet majority shareholder. Then, in 2019 she with the help of Blackstone and became the CEO of a new parent company. In 2021, Wolfe Herd became the youngest woman to take a company public.
Today, she’s stepping into a new chapter at Bumble once again. Wolfe Herd will step down as CEO of $904-million-in-revenue Bumble Inc. and become the business’s executive chair. Her successor in running the parent of the flagship app Bumble, its friend-finding platform Bumble BFF, and the apps Badoo, Fruitz, and Official, is Lidiane Jones, a Salesforce exec who became the CEO of Slack at the beginning of this year.In an interview Monday morning from New York, where two spent the day together, Wolfe Herd said she sees her move to executive chair as an opportunity to return to her “founder roots.” “I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a founder. That’s the way my mind and brain works,” she said. “It’s so important to be self-aware and reflective and consistently check in and say, ‘Am I bringing the best of myself? Am I spending 80% of my time on the things I’m best at?’” She said she’s looking forward to thinking more big-picture, rather than running the day-to-day—including the time spent on quarterly earnings and other obligations. “I never started this company to be a publicly-traded CEO,” the 34-year-old says. “I started this company to solve a problem that I experienced. I started this company to solve problems for women around the world.” She founded the Austin, Texas-based Bumble with the insight that dating apps were often an unpleasant experience for women, who were barraged with unwanted messages. After cofounding competitor Tinder—and enduring a difficult exit, including suing the Match Group-owned app for sexual harassment —Wolfe Herd came up with the idea for an app that only allows women in different-sex pairings to “make the first move,” or send the first message. The idea resonated, and Bumble built a powerful brand centered on empowering women. Under her leadership, the company made a foray , lobbying states, with some success, to criminalize the sending of unsolicited nude images. Wolfe Herd identifies several other issues she would like to tackle: the loneliness epidemic, toxicity on social media and the internet, and the ongoing quest for global gender equality. More broadly, she says, “I’m really looking at the future of love and connection.”
A new leader
Wolfe Herd says she has considered making this transition over the past few years, but was waiting for “the right partner.” She typically takes her time with these decisions; she only handed off the responsibility of running the Bumble app day-to-day less than a year ago to former Lyft exec Drena Kusari. Wolfe Herd saw Jones interviewed on CNBC earlier this year and reached out to the executive, who she calls a “customer-first, member-first leader.”
Jones, 44, is a Microsoft alum based outside of Boston, Mass, where she will remain. Originally from Brazil, she moved to the U.S. for college. She started at Salesforce almost five years ago and at the beginning of this year became the CEO of Slack, the workplace communications platform acquired by the tech giant in 2021. She will start as Bumble Inc.’s CEO in January, having spent less than a year in her job at Slack.
This will be her second time in a year succeeding a charismatic founder; at Slack, she took over from Stewart Butterfield as he exited Salesforce on the heels of that merger. Jones was tasked with smoothing over a tricky integration that involved making Slack more like Salesforce, a moneymaking enterprise tool—while making Salesforce more like Slack, with its creativity and extensive fanbase. Jones said she has learned that the key to pulling off a successful transition from a founder to a new leader is to “expand the DNA” a founder built.While Slack’s business is around the same size as Bumble’s by revenue, it was just a division of a larger company, representing 5% of Salesforce’s annual sales. In her new job at Bumble, she’ll be running a public company. “My immediate connection is to the mission,” Jones says of her decision to take the Bumble job. “I looked at Whitney this morning and said, ‘Wow, from the youngest woman to take a company public to an immigrant that came here on a scholarship—this is what Bumble is is all about.'” Jones has spent the past year integrating new AI-powered workflows into Slack and said she plans to incorporate more AI into Bumble’s apps as well. Wolfe Herd has said the technology to help people learn how to flirt via a chatbot, or to place users’ best-performing photos first. As an immigrant to the U.S., Jones also sees the potential for Bumble to grow its business internationally. “I think that’s an exciting area of opportunity,” she says.