A company catering to women and led by women has made its 31-year-old female founder a billionaire.
Shares of Bumble Inc., the owner of the dating app where women make the first move, soared 67% on trading debut to $72 at 1:03 p.m. in New York, valuing Chief Executive Officer Whitney Wolfe Herd’s stake at $1.5 billion.
The listing caps a saga that’s both inspiration and cautionary tale for women tech founders. Wolfe Herd capitalised on an underserved market and built a multibillion-dollar company that was in a sense born from one of the most vexing obstacles to women entrepreneurs: sexual harassment.
“Hopefully this will not be a rare headline,” Wolfe Herd said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg Television, referring to the uniqueness of Bumble’s women-led management. “Hopefully this will be the norm. It’s the right thing to do, it’s a priority for us and it should be a priority for everyone else.”
Bumble’s IPO launches Wolfe Herd into a rarefied club of self-made female billionaires. While women make up about half of the global population, self-made women — mostly from Asia — account for less than 5% of the world’s 500 biggest fortunes, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Self-made men comprise almost two-thirds of the wealth index.
Of the 559 companies that have gone public in the US over the past 12 months, only two, aside from Bumble, were founded by women. It’s the same with blank-cheque firms, Wall Street’s favoured wealth-boosting vehicle of the moment.
Women-sponsored SPACs totaled fewer than a dozen, a fraction of the 349 that listed in the past year. That means women are largely being left behind in what’s likely the fastest wealth-creation boom in history. Last year the world’s 500 richest people gained $1.8 trillion, yet 91% of that windfall went to men, according to the Bloomberg index.