Bumble’s female-forward IPO

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The Biden-Harris inauguration is in one day, a mask brand carves out a niche in a crowded market, and Bumble is going public. Have a mindful Tuesday.

– IPO buzz. Just two weeks ago, we highlighted the disappointing trend among U.S. IPOs: Of the hundreds of companies that have gone public in the United States over the years, all but 20 or so were founded and led by men.

At least one IPO in 2021 will run counter to the spirit of that phenomenon: Bumble’s.

The company behind the female-centric dating app founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd in 2014 filed to go public on Friday. It’s expected to debut—fittingly—around Valentine’s Day.

Wolfe Herd’s startup story has captured tons of media attention. She started her career at dating app Tinder but sued the company over sexual harassment and discrimination claims. The parties settled the claims with no admission of wrongdoing shortly before Wolfe Herd launched Bumble.

Bumble faced its own allegations of misconduct in July 2019, when former employees accused Andrey Andreev, then Bumble’s majority owner, of fostering a toxic workplace. Andreev said “many of the accusations are inaccurate” but that he was taking them “seriously.” He later sold his stake in the company. Wolfe Herd said she stood by Andreev and had never witnessed inappropriate behavior, but said she would “never challenge someone’s feelings or experiences.”

The 2019 claims put Wolfe Herd in a tight spot because Bumble has been so consistently female-forward. Wolfe Herd founded the app, she wrote in a letter to investors in Bumble’s S-1, on the idea that women should be able to make the first move in a romantic relationship “without fear and judgment,” and that encouraging them to do so would help upend the traditional, unhealthy dating dynamic that “disempowered women and created unnecessary pressure for men.”

Bumble’s commitment to female empowerment and women’s safety has reached beyond digital match-making. In 2019, Wolfe Herd and Bumble backed a Texas law that criminalized the unsolicited sharing of nude images and Bumble launched a tool that automatically blurs lewd photos sent on the app.

The brand’s approach has resonated with users. It reports having 42.1 million monthly active users as of the end of September and could seek a valuation of between $6 billion and $8 billion, according to Bloomberg. It reported a net loss of $84 million on revenue of $376 million between Jan. 29 and Sept. 30 last year.

Bumble’s IPO stands out for a few more reasons. At 31, Wolfe Herd will be one of the youngest female CEOs to take her company public. And Bumble is expected to list on the Nasdaq with a board that’s 73% female, a stark counterpoint to all the firms that go public with boards that are made up mostly—if not entirely—of men.

Claire Zillman

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