Whitney Wolfe Herd Lands on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for 2017

2017 was a big year for Whitney Wolfe Herd

In case the universe wasn’t clear that 2017 is the year of Whitney Wolfe—or Whitney Wolfe Herd, as the newlywed is now known—the December issue of Forbes Magazine clinches it. Smack dab on the cover of its iconic “30 Under 30” appears none other than the online dating dynamo. The 28-year-old Salt Lake City native well deserves the honor not just for having had a banner year professionally and personally but for the many strides she’s personally helped make for women across various social media platforms.

Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 issue highlights 30 people who, surprise-surprise, are not only wildly successful but who also happen to be under the age of 30. Given the highly competitive nature of the tech industry as well as the cutthroat landscape of online dating apps, it is particularly impressive that the former Ms. Wolfe so easily made the cut. And why shouldn’t she? In addition to celebrating the ongoing runaway success of Bumble, her innovative “women first” dating app, Herd tied the knot with longtime boyfriend Michael Herd in a fairytale wedding ceremony on the southern coast of Italy.

At this point, anyone who pays even the slightest bit of attention to the worlds of tech, social media and business is at least somewhat aware of Whitney Herd Wolfe. Still, few out there know much about her background. A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, she attended private schools as a child and teenager. As the third-generation member of a Southern Methodist University legacy, it came as no surprise when she enrolled in the Dallas-based school after high school. Her creative and entrepreneurial spirit led her to Silicon Valley, where she forged connections that would prove to be quite fortuitous down the road.

Whitney Wolfe Herd hit it big as the co-founder and marketing director of what turned out to become a wildly popular online dating app. She and her team experienced phenomenal success during those years, and the work gave Herd the experience that she’d need to work her magic over at Bumble. Like anyone who works in a competitive field, the current Bumble CEO experienced many ups and downs during that time. All the while, she continued to spin various concepts and ideas through her head. Without question, Whitney Wolfe Herd was always meant to take the reins.

Like so many who go on to experience great success, Whitney Wolfe Herd went through a rough patch early in her professional career. In interviews, she has openly admitted to having experienced bouts of depression. Wisely, she left Silicon Valley and retreated to Texas, where she felt more at home and ready to regroup. During this time, she came up with the concept of Merci, which she envisioned as a social network exclusively for women—and one that’s expressly designed for positivity and building one another up. For various reasons, she was hoping to avoid the world of online dating at that point in her career.

Although Whitney Wolfe Herd insisted that she was moving away from dating apps, her interest was piqued when she was approached by the founder of Badoo, the largest and most popular dating app in the world. In 2013, Andrey Andreev, the rather reclusive man who founded Badoo in 2006, reached out to Whitney Wolfe Herd. The two had met before, and he told her that he wanted to bring her on board with Badoo. However, Whitney Wolfe Herd told him that she wanted to start her own company—not work for someone else. She told him about Merci, and this got the pair thinking about how they could take that concept and make something totally unique with it.

As the concept behind Bumble was worked out, Andreev agreed to invest in the new venture. The primary unique selling proposition of the app was simple yet innovative: Women make the first move. Likening it to a modern-day, digital Sadie Hawkins dance, Whitney Wolfe Herd’s enthusiasm for the new app was truly infectious—and it really resonated with women. With Andreev’s backing—he took 79 percent of the company, leaving 20 percent for Whitney Wolfe Herd and another 1 percent for a few other minor players—Whitney Wolfe Herd was able to get Bumble in front of hundreds of thousands of users in no time.

Within the first month of going live in December 2014, Bumble had been downloaded more than 100,000 times. These days, Bumble has more than 22 million registered users and is experiencing a year-over-year growth of a jaw-dropping 70 percent. This is versus its nearest competitor, which may have around 46 million users but also only has a year-over-year growth rate of around 10 percent. Monetization of the app only started in August 2016. For 2017, Bumble is expected to exceed $100 million in sales—and that figure is expected to double in 2018.

In addition to the smashing success of Bumble, 2017 also saw the introduction of two off-shoot concepts from Whitney Wolfe Herd and her team. Bumble BFF, a platonic friendship seeking app for women, debuted in early 2016. So far, more than 3 million people have tried it. Bumble Bizz, a female-centric counterpoint to LinkedIn, enjoyed an official launch party in New York City in October 2017. It is too early to say whether either app will approach the original’s success, but there is no doubt that women around the world are celebrating these developments.

2017 was amazing for Whitney Wolfe Herd from not only a professional standpoint but from a personal one too. In early October, she and boyfriend Michael Herd, whom she met in Aspen in 2013 and became engaged to in June 2016 during a romantic sunset horseback ride at his Texas ranch, tied the knot. Opting for a destination wedding, they exchanged vows at the elegant Villa Tre Ville in Positano, Italy. Whitney Wolfe Herd was resplendent in a couture Oscar de la Renta gown, and she and her new husband, a restauranteur and oil and gas businessman, immediately embarked on an adventurous honeymoon.

As 2017 rolls to a close, it is safe to say that Whitney Wolfe Herd will forever look back on it as one of the most momentous of her life. Then again, though, given how much that she’s accomplished in just a few short years, there’s no telling what new heights she will reach going forward. One thing that’s for sure, though, is that Whitney Wolfe Herd has cemented her place not only in the tech industry but also as a champion for women—and that is the kind of legacy that truly matters.

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