Dating app Bumble jumps in debut after $2.15-billion IPO

Bumble Inc., the dating app that allows only women to make the first move, climbed 64% in its trading debut after its initial public offering was expanded to raise $2.15 billion.

The company’s shares opened trading at $76 in New York on Thursday. The stock, which rose as much as 85% from the offer price, closed at $70.31, valuing Bumble at about $14 billion, including debt, according to Bloomberg calculations.

Chief Executive Whitney Wolfe Herd, who at 31 is the youngest female CEO to take a large company public in the U.S., said in an interview Thursday she was grateful for other women having paved the way before her. She said Bumble would use the proceeds from the IPO to pay down debt and potentially pursue acquisitions.

“We’re very focused on aggressive international growth,” Wolfe Herd said.

Bumble sold 50 million shares for $43 each Wednesday after marketing 45 million shares for $37 to $39 apiece. That target had been raised earlier from 34.5 million shares at $28 to $30.

When asked about the first-day share jump, Wolfe Herd said she was comfortable with the pricing and was focused on the long term.

“You are signing up for our very long road ahead of us to try and make relationships healthier and more equitable and to build a brand that resonates not just with women but makes connections better for everyone,” she said.

The Bumble app was started in 2014 by Wolfe Herd, who previously co-founded the dating app Tinder.

The private equity firm Blackstone Group Inc. took a majority stake in Bumble’s parent company in 2019, in a transaction that valued it at $3 billion. Other investors include venture capital firms Accel, Greycroft and Bessemer Venture Partners.

Sarah Kunst, a Cleo Capital managing director who has advised Bumble on investing in other women-led start-ups, credits Wolfe Herd with having a vision for the brand and inspiring customers.

“The world has sort of caught up in the last few years to ‘of course women can do this,’” said Kunst, noting that Bumble also showed that a multibillion-dollar technology business could be built from Austin, Texas, instead of Silicon Valley.

“This company broke a bunch of norms,” Kunst said.

For the nine months that ended Sept. 30, Bumble had a pro forma net loss of $28 million attributable to owners and shareholders on revenue of $413 million, according to its filings.

The offering was led by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc., Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Bumble’s shares are trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol BMBL.

In a letter to investors, Wolfe Herd said women making the first move is a “powerful shift.”

“Archaic gender dynamics and old-fashioned traditions still ruled the dating world,” she said. “This led to all sorts of unhealthy dynamics that ultimately disempowered women and created unnecessary pressure for men.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bumble has added games and other features to its app. Wolfe Herd said she believes the company is well-positioned as the world emerges from social isolation.

“This pandemic has proven that loneliness is not the way we were designed to live,” she said. “On the other end of this we feel that we’re well positioned to thrive in the sense that people have seen the true benefit of online dating. It’s unlikely to ever revert back to how it was.”