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It’s 4:55pm Central Time on a Tuesday, at Bumble Headquarters in Austin, Texas. Whitney Wolfe Herd, the XXX year old founder and CEO of the woman-led dating app is showing me around the XXX year old startup’s offices before we sit down to talk about the company. Our first stop is the obligatory startup watering hole. The fridges are stocked with Topo Chico instead of La Croix and the built-in taps are purely for decoration. Maybe one day they’ll be filled with Kombucha or iced coffee, a team member tells me. But no mentions of beer. We’re not in Silicon Valley anymore.
As Wolfe Herd pours two glasses of white wine and plops in a few ice cubes, she briefly pauses, looking up at me to ask if I’m O.K with her drink selection. Although I quickly tell her that not only was it ok but I actually enjoy that particular drink, her brief hesitation suggested we were both were thinking the same thing; men aren’t supposed to drink white wine with ice cubes.
There was perhaps no better way to start our time together then with this unplanned reminder that no matter how many hundreds of millions of woman-initiated matches have been made on Bumble, the company still exists in a a world so engrained with gender stereotypes that we couldn’t get through pouring a drink before the first one reared its anachronistic head.
Luckily for me and my unsophisticated palate, I’d soon learn that Whitney Wolfe Herd doesn’t particularly care what people think she or her company are supposed to do, let alone what we should be drinking.
Bumble isn’t Wolfe Herd’s first exposure to the world of digital dating and connections. She moved to Los Angeles in 2012 and became an early co-founder of Tinder, but eventually left the company amid allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination against another one of the company’s co-founders. The lawsuit was settled, and while the past is the past the history does help set the stage for the idea that would eventually turn into Bumble.
“I was just poof, gone, ceased to exist. It was like leaving behind an abandoned life, fleeing from the storm or whatever it was,” explained Wolfe Herd when talking about leaving Los Angeles after her time at Tinder. “I was experiencing all this, and then the Twitterverse and the Instagram world and the online sphere started attacking me. And I had never really understood online bullying. I didn’t even know what that meant or what it felt like. It made me really depressed.”