PaperCity Magazine

May 2019- Dallas

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34 N ot long after graduating f r o m S o u t h e r n Methodist University, Whitney Wolfe Herd found herself in the middle of a highly publicized lawsuit and the victim of online attacks after parting ways with the first company she co-founded, Tinder, a juggernaut in the online dating-app world. Thanks in part to national media coverage (including cover stories in Forbes, Wired, and Fast Company), many are familiar with the fact that her less-than-ideal experience with Tinder is what motivated her to launch Bumble, the dating app and networking platform where women make the first move — an app currently valued at more than $1 billion. The story people don't know, however, is the one about three young Texas women who stood by Herd when, at age 24, she set out on a mission to end misogyny. "Bumble wouldn't exist without them," Herd says. "To this day, these women are my support system. They've been there with me through everything." Bumble chief brand officer Alexandra Williamson and chief of staff Caroline Ellis Roche — both SMU alumni — and Samantha Fulgham, chief creative marketing officer, were no more than acquaintances when Herd tapped them to help her launch the start-up: an app that would flip the dating-gender dynamic on its head by requiring women to send the first message. "It wasn't 'Let's start this company and make a bunch of money one day,'" Fulgham says, recalling Herd's pitch. "It was 'We have to fix this.' We got on board quickly." During Bumble's early days, the young team faced resistance from every angle — even from their own friends and families. Fulgham, who started working on Bumble when she was still a student at the University of Alabama, says the concept of online dating — let alone women making the first move — was considered taboo in her hometown of Tyler, Texas. She ended up dropping out of college to focus on the business full-time. "My mom understood, but her friends — and even my friends — were, like, 'You're going to drop out for this sex-app thing?'" she says. "Dating apps had this stigma — and so did feminism." To that, Williamson quickly chimes in, "I remember, in the beginning, people saying, 'Isn't that trashy? That you're getting involved with a dating app. Isn't that kind of gross?' This is a healthy way to meet people. We were determined to change the stigma and normalize online dating." While Williamson was passionate about the potential of dating apps, the idea of making the first move in dating BEHIND THE BUMBLE BUZZ HOW A SMALL GROUP OF WOMEN BUILT A BILLION-DOLLAR COMPANY WITH AN APP THAT INVOLVES MUCH MORE THAN SWIPING RIGHT. BY LISA COLLINS SHADDOCK Whitney Wolfe Herd

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