In the early days of dating app Bumble, CEO and founder Whitney Wolfe Herd realized something: Twitter and Instagram were two of the most popular apps ever, but she had never seen ads for them.
She wanted to make her dating app as ubiquitous as the social media giants, and she liked the idea of not spending money. Wolf Herd said that Bumble had a “modest budget” at the time Master class course Released on Thursday.
Wolf Herd said that instead of traditional marketing campaigns, she put together a series of “crazy hacks” to drum up interest in her Austin, Texas-based startup. In one, she went to a cookie store and paid the bakers $20 to decorate yellow frosted cookies with a white Bumble logo. She then took the box to a nearby college sorority.
Other gifts for sorority girls – offered in exchange for downloading the app and sharing it with friends – include balloons, koozies, yellow Hanky Panky underwear, Fortune reported In 2016.
Wolfe Herd used a similar tactic with college fraternities, handing out pizzas using bumblebee-themed stickers placed on cardboard boxes.
“We didn’t have countless marketing dollars…we had to be really pessimistic,” she said. “There it is, a lot of sorority women downloaded it, a lot of fraternity guys downloaded it, and then they started matching. That’s where the snowball effect really started.”
Bumble launched in December 2014 with $10 million in funding from the co-founder of Badoo Andrei Andreev, Forbes reported. It appears that most of that money didn’t go toward marketing — instead, when Wolf Herd noticed signs outside a local college’s lecture halls banning social media platforms in the classroom, she hung additional signs, adding Bumble to the list.
“No one knew what Bumble was yet, so when we associated ourselves with these products… we bought ourselves into the assumption that this would be the app they would want to use in class,” she said. “All of a sudden, those downloads started going up.”
For Wolf Herd, the momentum was certain. She had been rejected by previous investors, who thought the app — in which women initiate conversations with their matches — went against social norms and would not be adopted, she said last year at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado.
“I retrained my brain from day one: every time I got a hurtful email or tweet or an investor told me… [the idea for Bumble] “It was stupid,” Wolf Herd said, “I was so excited about it. People generally don’t know how to see things that don’t exist yet, so you just have to believe in yourself.”
Seven years after launching the app, Wolfe Herd has become the youngest organization in history to take a company public. Bumble Inc., which now owns a range of apps including Bumble and Badoo, has a current market cap of $1.91 billion.
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