20VC Bumble's Whitney Wolfe Herd on How The Best Leaders Manage Intense Pressure, How To Think Through Risk vs Reward Frameworks & What it Truly Means to Listen so Your Teams Will Talk



In this episode of "20 VC," host Harry Stebbings interviews Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of Bumble, a platform revolutionizing the online dating scene by empowering women to make the first move. Wolfe Herd shares her journey from co-founding Tinder to transforming Bumble into a global community with over 100 million users. Despite facing online hate and personal challenges, she remained driven by the desire to create kinder digital spaces, leading to Bumble's unique approach and its public debut on NASDAQ. Wolfe Herd emphasizes the importance of listening to feedback, balancing heart with data, and the continuous learning from every interaction. Additionally, she reflects on how parenthood has made her more mindful of work-life balance and the importance of both liking and loving one's partner for a happy marriage.

Summary Notes

Introduction to 20 VC Podcast Episode

  • Harry Stebbings expresses excitement for the episode with Whitney Wolfe Herd.
  • Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of Bumble, is the guest.
  • Juliet de Balbrigny at Bond Capital connected Harry to Whitney.
  • Bumble's impact: over 100 million community members, 1.8 billion first moves, and a successful IPO.
  • Whitney's background includes co-founding and being the VP of marketing at Tinder.

"I'm thrilled to welcome Whitney Wolf heard, founder and CEO at Bumble changing the way people date, find friends, and the perception of meeting online for the better women make the first move over an incredible eight year journey, Whitney scaled Bumble to a community of over 100 million across six continents."

This quote highlights the introduction of Whitney Wolfe Herd and the significant achievements of Bumble under her leadership.

Sponsorship and Product Endorsements

  • Harry Stebbings endorses Tigus, OpenPhone, and Cooley.
  • Tigus provides insights on private companies for venture capitalists and strategists.
  • OpenPhone offers business phone numbers with organized inboxes.
  • Cooley is a law firm specializing in startups and venture capital.

"Tigas is also providing the most flexible and highest quality way to run your own expert calls with no upfront fees or call minimums, the ability to do 30 minutes calls, and simply paying the expert's rate."

Harry Stebbings explains the benefits of using Tigus for expert calls, emphasizing flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

Whitney Wolfe Herd's Background and Bumble's Genesis

  • Whitney recounts her departure from Tinder and the public fallout.
  • She experienced online hate, which led her to seek a solution for kinder online interactions.
  • Whitney initially planned a women-only social network based on compliments.
  • She pivoted to a dating app with a focus on kindness and women making the first move, which became Bumble.

"I wanted to start a kinder, more civilized digital space and through the lens of women."

Whitney Wolfe Herd discusses her motivation to create a digital space that promotes kindness and empowers women, setting the stage for Bumble's unique approach.

The Importance of Leadership and High Performance

  • Whitney's leadership is praised by her team.
  • High performance to Whitney means waking up every day and giving it your best.
  • She focuses on creating a positive work environment and empathizing with others.

"High performance is just waking up every day and giving it your best."

Whitney Wolfe Herd defines high performance as a commitment to consistently doing one's best, reflecting her leadership philosophy.

Knowing When to Quit

  • Whitney discusses the balance between passion for a project and the reality of its success.
  • She emphasizes the need to combine heart and data when evaluating projects.
  • Recognizing when to quit is crucial and can be hindered by ego.

"The perfect balance is a healthy dose of heart and data."

This quote encapsulates Whitney Wolfe Herd's approach to decision-making by balancing emotional investment with data-driven insights.

Importance of Customer Feedback and Leadership Listening

  • Leaders should pay attention to customer feedback, as it can reveal important insights and blind spots in the product.
  • Listening is crucial, but it's important to distinguish between vocal minority feedback and the majority opinion.
  • Acting on feedback requires careful analysis to determine if it represents a larger trend or need.

"But the people that actually matter the most are the people using your product and telling you this doesn't work. Or, yeah, you've got a blind spot, or you're missing this."

This quote emphasizes the value of customer feedback in identifying product issues and areas for improvement. Customers using the product are often the best source of constructive criticism.

"So I would say being really diligent about listening, I think listening is the magic word."

Listening is highlighted as a key skill for leaders, implying that it is essential to be open to feedback from various sources, including customers and team members.

"When a leader stops listening is when a leader starts failing."

This quote suggests that a leader's ability to listen is directly tied to their success. Failure to listen can lead to a disconnect with the team and the market, potentially leading to poor decision-making.

Acting on Feedback vs. Staying the Course

  • Leaders should always listen to feedback but must decide when to act on it.
  • Reflecting on feedback and analyzing its validity is a critical step before taking action.
  • Not all opinions should sway decisions, but they should be considered and understood.

"Always listen, but then really reflect and then run the analysis. And if the analysis supports it, then you can actually act on it."

The quote underscores the process of listening to feedback, reflecting on its content, and analyzing its significance before deciding whether to act on it.

Leadership Style and Evolution

  • A leader's style should be a reflection of the company's values and mission.
  • Leaders must embody the values they promote within their company.
  • Leadership styles can evolve over time, influenced by personal experiences and the growth of the company.

"My style is just a derivative of our values and of our mission."

Whitney Wolfe Herd describes her leadership style as being derived from the core values and mission of her company, emphasizing the importance of alignment between leadership and company ethos.

Transparency in Leadership

  • Transparency is important, but there are times when complete openness is not possible or productive.
  • Leaders can be transparent about the reasons for not sharing certain information, which can maintain trust.
  • Explaining the need for confidentiality can prevent fear and speculation among team members.

"But you can be transparent about not being able to talk about it."

The quote highlights a nuanced approach to transparency, where leaders can be open about the reasons why they cannot disclose certain information, thus preserving trust without compromising privacy or strategic interests.

Personal Growth and Resilience

  • Leaders can experience significant personal growth through challenging and life-altering experiences.
  • The ability to adapt and face various challenges is crucial for long-term success in leadership.
  • Resilience is built through overcoming obstacles and maintaining a positive outlook on future challenges.

"I think that changed me so much. What it did was it actually said, hey, you've got nothing left to lose. Go run as fast as you can."

Whitney Wolfe Herd reflects on a pivotal moment in her career that led to a significant personal transformation, instilling a sense of fearlessness and resilience.

Coping with Pressure

  • Leaders face pressure and must find ways to cope and turn it into motivation.
  • Humor, perspective, and the belief that challenges will pass can be effective coping strategies.
  • Viewing pressure as an opportunity for growth rather than a burden can lead to positive outcomes.

"Pressure makes diamonds."

This quote suggests that pressure, while challenging, can lead to positive results and personal growth if approached with the right mindset.

Relationship with Risk

  • People's relationship with risk can vary and change over time.
  • Personal experiences can significantly influence one's approach to risk and decision-making.
  • Leaders may become more cautious or bold in their risk-taking based on past outcomes and lessons learned.

No direct quote provided related to risk, but the theme was discussed in the context of personal growth and leadership evolution.

Assessing Risk and Taking Action

  • Granddaddy's advice serves as a guiding principle for evaluating risks.
  • The importance of weighing potential loss against the reward.
  • Encourages a rational assessment of stakes involved in decision-making.
  • Highlights the common issue of fear preventing people from taking risks.

"What do you have to lose? And if what we have to lose is greater than the reward, then that's how you really measure it."

This quote emphasizes the need to consider what is at risk versus the potential benefits when facing a decision that involves risk.

"Is it really the end of the world if this thing doesn't work?"

This quote suggests that people often overestimate the consequences of risks not working out, leading them to avoid taking chances that could be beneficial.

Value of Perspective in Moments of Stress

  • Mentors can provide perspective on the significance of stressful events.
  • The "will this matter in ten years?" technique helps to contextualize current problems.
  • Importance of recognizing the temporary nature of most crises.

"A lot of the time, things seem very big in the moment, but very few things you will actually remember in ten years."

This quote highlights the idea that many issues that seem critical in the moment may not be significant in the long term.

The Role of Mentors and Learning From Everyone

  • Whitney Wolfe Herd's approach to mentorship involves learning from every individual encountered.
  • Emphasizes the importance of empathy and understanding others' stories.
  • Discusses the challenge of finding strong mentors early in her career.
  • Advocates for a mindset of non-judgment and kindness.

"I literally make every single person my mentor."

This quote illustrates Whitney's philosophy of treating every interaction as an opportunity to learn, effectively turning everyone into a mentor.

"It's really hard to genuinely dislike someone when you've heard their story."

This quote underscores the power of personal stories in fostering understanding and reducing judgment.

Scaling Challenges and Growth in a Company

  • Compares the growing pains of a company to raising children.
  • Discusses the increased resilience and personal growth experienced over time.
  • Acknowledges the complexities and responsibilities that come with a larger company.

"Little company, little problems, big company, big problems."

This quote draws a parallel between the size of a company and the scale of the problems it faces, suggesting that as a company grows, so do its challenges.

"I've never been more energized about bumble and its future than today."

Despite the challenges, this quote reflects Whitney's continued passion and excitement for her company's future.

Parenthood and Work

  • Whitney Wolfe Herd shares her experience of balancing motherhood with being a CEO.
  • Discusses how parenthood has improved her efficiency and perspective at work.
  • Parenthood has made her more mindful of her team's personal lives outside of work.

"Having children has made me a better person at work because when I show up at work, I'm fresh minded."

This quote explains how the shift in focus required by parenthood can actually enhance performance at work by providing mental breaks.

"I'm a bit more mindful of people's personal lives."

This quote reveals how becoming a parent has made Whitney more considerate of her team's work-life balance.

Impact of Parenthood on Leadership

  • Parenthood has influenced Whitney's awareness of her team's personal time.
  • Reflects on the realization that not everyone shares the founder's level of obsession with the company.
  • Discusses the importance of respecting team members' boundaries and personal lives.

"I probably was not the most aware of messaging or calling someone at bedtime hours or dinner time hours."

Whitney acknowledges her past oversight regarding her team's personal time and how parenthood has made her more considerate.

Personal Preferences and Content Consumption

  • Whitney Wolfe Herd and the host discuss their favorite content and how it reflects personal tastes.
  • Whitney expresses a preference for original content over remakes or sequels.

"I just don't think anything can ever replace the original one."

This quote conveys Whitney's appreciation for the originality and emotional impact of the first "Top Gun" movie over the sequel.

Content Consumption and Preferences

  • Whitney Wolfe Herd expresses dissatisfaction with current digital content, finding it somewhat corrosive.
  • She appreciates movements and platforms that promote good news and positivity.
  • Whitney mentions a favorite book, "Shantarong," as a beautiful and transformative reading experience.

"Favorite content burnt on a lot of the digital content right now, which I would say is actually inspiring a lot of interesting things that we can do in the future."

This quote highlights Whitney's critical view of current digital content and her hope for it to inspire positive future changes.

"But I actually like the stuff coming off of the toxic side of things, which is like these good news movements and these happier platforms that highlight good things versus a barrage of bad things."

Whitney expresses her preference for positive content that contrasts the negativity often found online.

"Nothing will ever replace Shantarong."

Whitney shares her enduring affection for the book "Shantarong," suggesting its significant impact on her.

Leadership Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Whitney is self-critical, always striving for improvement, which she sees as both a strength and a weakness.
  • She discusses the tendency of male CEOs to boast about strengths, while female CEOs often start with weaknesses.

"I'm not great at paying myself compliments or identifying the strong suits, which has made me consistently motivated to do better, be better, do better, be better."

Whitney describes her self-critical nature and constant drive for self-improvement.

"I don't think you should take that out because I think it's actually very interesting."

Whitney advocates for keeping the conversation about gender differences in leadership self-perception, highlighting its importance.

Parenting Ideals

  • Whitney wants her children to be kind, caring, and free of jealousy.
  • She emphasizes the importance of finding joy in each day without feeling pressured to conform.

"I want my children to be kind, caring individuals. I want them to see the best in others and not possess an ounce of jealousy or comparison."

Whitney outlines the traits she hopes to instill in her children, focusing on kindness and a positive outlook.

Secrets to a Happy Marriage

  • Whitney believes liking your partner, not just loving them, is crucial for a happy marriage.
  • She values respect, admiration, and enjoying time spent together with her husband.

"I think you have to actually like your partner, not just love them."

Whitney differentiates between loving and liking a partner, emphasizing the importance of both for a successful relationship.

Personal Experiences and Bumble Usage

  • Whitney and the host share personal anecdotes about their experiences with relationships and Bumble.
  • They plan a future meeting to optimize the host's Bumble profile.

"We will sit together, and we will curate your bumble profile."

Whitney offers to help the host improve his Bumble profile, indicating a personal connection and willingness to assist.

Bumble Inc.'s Future Goals

  • By 2027, Whitney hopes Bumble Inc. will have fostered countless kinder connections and combated Internet toxicity.
  • She aims for Bumble to empower women and promote accountability, kindness, and real connections in various relationships.

"I hope Bumble Inc. Will just build real deep connections for people across all relationship spectrums."

Whitney shares her high-level vision for Bumble Inc., emphasizing the desire to create meaningful connections and address Internet toxicity.

"Women still just are not in control. I mean, look at America right now. We don't even have choice over our bodies and so that's really bumble Inc's entire focus right now."

Whitney highlights the importance of women's empowerment and control, which is a central focus for Bumble Inc.

Closing Remarks

  • Whitney and the host express mutual enjoyment of the conversation and look forward to meeting in person.
  • They appreciate the opportunity to have had an open and transparent discussion.

"I had so much fun with you too. And candidly, I wish we weren't even on the podcast when we were like having a coffee or something in London or somewhere awesome and we could just talk for hours."

Whitney reflects on the enjoyable conversation and her wish for a more casual, in-person interaction with the host.

"I want to say huge thank you."

The host thanks Whitney for her participation and openness during the podcast, appreciating the quality of the conversation.

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