It was already on public record that Andrey Andreev, the low-profile Russian founder of European dating behemoth Badoo, is an investor in female-led dating app Bumble, the Tinder competitor founded by ex-Tinder founding team member Whitney Wolfe. However, TechCrunch can now reveal a number of previously unreported details of Wolfe and Andreev’s partnership, including that Andreev invested via Badoo Trading Ltd, the U.K.-registered operator of Badoo, and that the multi-billion dollar company is in actual fact the majority owner of Bumble.
But before we dig a little deeper into Badoo’s relationship with Bumble, here’s a quick recap of Bumble’s founding story, which goes something like this:
After Wolfe controversially left Tinder, including filing a lawsuit against the company for sexual harassment and workplace discrimination, she begun thinking about a new startup idea, a social network for young girls, focused on positivity. That’s when Badoo’s Andreev got in touch.
The two met up in around August of 2014 and, after realising they both had a similar vision for where online dating could go next, a partnership was formed. Wolfe then went about assembling a team, including persuading two other ex-Tinder employees, Sarah Mick (previously VP of design at Tinder) and Chris Gulczynski (co-founder/CCO at Tinder), to come on board, initially as consultants. The new venture, Bumble, would launch on December 1st 2014.
A recent company filing for Bumble Holding Limited — the U.K.-registered entity behind Bumble — shows the exact equity breakdown of the company. Most strikingly, Badoo has a whopping 79 per cent stake in Bumble, making it by far the majority owner. And, as you’d then expect, in second place is Bumble founder Wolfe with an ownership stake of 20 per cent. Fellow ex-Tinder employees, Mick and Gulczynski, make up the remaining 1 per cent.
“Badoo and Bumble are separate companies. Andrey Andreev, via Badoo, invested in Bumble as a startup,” Bumble told me in a statement after I pressed for further details regarding the relationship between the two entities. “As is well publicized and documented, Andrey Andreev and Whitney Wolfe decided to partner on a new company in 2014. Badoo invested in this new project — the new project became Bumble.”
The company also stressed that the investment is strategic from both sides, enabling Bumble to not simply fundraise, but to “strategically tap into the wealth of experience held by Badoo as a global market leader”.
“It also allows for Bumble to scale, without needing to seek outside capital,” adds Bumble. “That is an important part of what makes this a highly unique and opportune deal. For a company like Bumble with such incredible growth, this strategic move has been invaluable when it has come to easily and seamlessly solving common startup issues such as scale and infrastructure.”
And while the benefits of having a strategic investor with the deep pockets of Badoo shouldn’t be underestimated — the dating app space is incredibly competitive right now and isn’t easy for new entrants to break into — it’s worth re-iterating that Wolfe is in every sense the founder and CEO of Bumble. I’m told that the startup operates as an autonomous, independent company, and always will do, with its staff, head office, and HQ in Austin, Texas.
It’s also my understanding that the thinking behind Badoo’s large stake in Bumble, and in turn, Wolfe’s smaller stake, is that it will enable the startup to grow indefinitely without the need for numerous further funding rounds, which would see Wolfe’s stake diluted significantly anyway. As the statement above says, Badoo’s investment should allow Bumble “to scale, without needing to seek outside capital”.
None of which should take away from Wolfe and her team at Bumble’s success to date. The app boasts 3.5 million users since launching just shy of 15 months ago. It’s also been steadfast in its female-led approach, an underserved portion of the market. In Bumble, women are required to make the first move, and I’m told have done so over 36 million times via the app — a number that suggests Wolfe’s vision for a new type of dating app is actually working.