Updated at 1:30 p.m. on September 24 to include a response from Match Group.
It’s been six months since the dating-app war between Tinder and Bumble broke out. Now Bumble is intensifying the battle. After countersuing Tinder’s parent company, Match Group, in March for $400 million in damages, Bumble announced on Monday that it will no longer try to settle privately and will instead take Match Group to court.
The move is part of an effort by Bumble to go on the offensive to protect its reputation and perhaps also increase its visibility ahead of a possible initial public offering, an option that Whitney Wolfe Herd, Bumble’s founder and minority owner, says the company is exploring.
“We really believe in standing up for what’s right and protecting ourselves, and so we are now going to be serving this, and we are going to take this through the courts,” Wolfe Herd, who Forbes estimates is worth $230 million, says. “We have the resources, we have the intellectual capital, and we have the confidence and the knowledge that we will win this.”
Upon request for comment, Match responded: “To our knowledge, Bumble still has not served us. However, we understand their desire to distract from ongoing, actual litigation, regarding their misappropriation of trade secrets and infringing on our intellectual property. Bumble is required to file a response to our original claims next week and we look forward to proving these in court.”
Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe Herd Swiped Right To A $230 Million Fortune
The history between Tinder and Bumble goes back long before Bumble even existed: Wolfe Herd cofounded Tinder, but left in 2014, claiming sexual harassment by her cofounder and ex-boyfriend Justin Mateen. Mateen was suspended from Tinder, and Wolfe Herd settled for a reported $1 million.
The experience was one of many that helped inspire Wolfe Herd to create Bumble. On the dating app, women are in control, choosing to initiate conversations with men in a 21st-century version of the Sadie Hawkins dance. The app has also taken a feminist approach to its marketing and hosts regular events and meetups for women across the country.
“I founded this business because I lived through too many abusive relationships in my life. I have watched my mother live through them, my sister, my friends. It is an epidemic,” Wolfe Herd told Forbes. “We really are striving to end misogyny, and that’s not just in love. That is in relationships across the border including corporate America … to serve our users with a more empowered platform to connect.”
Billion-Dollar Bumble: How Whitney Wolfe Herd Built America’s Fastest-Growing Dating App
Match, which also owns dating app Hinge, tried to purchase Bumble: first, early last year, for $450 million, and then last fall, Match approached Bumble again, this time with a valuation of over $1 billion, Forbes reported. Bumble turned Match down both times. Less than six months later, in March, Match sued Bumble, claiming that the app was a “Tinder-clone” and misused trade secrets, as well as infringed on patents and trademarks. Bumble quickly responded with its own countersuit.
“That’s what we call bullying, and we swipe left on bullies. Ask the thousands of users we’ve blocked from our platform for bad behavior,” Bumble wrote in a letter to Match that ran as an ad in the New York Times and Dallas Morning News in March. At the time, Match said Bumble’s countersuit was frivolous and a “petulant and meritless response to our patent and trade secret claims.”
A Bumble representative said the company hoped the legal battle would come to an end outside of court, but Wolfe Herd says the two companies were unable to reach an agreement. She suspects that part of Match’s intention with the suit is to fend off the threat of another public company focused on dating. “Match was unable to successfully acquire us. They are continuously threatened by our growth; they are threatened by our brand loyalty,” says Wolfe Herd. “If you think about the current landscape of the public American market when it comes to competitive businesses such as ours, Match is somewhat of a monopoly.”
Tinder is Bumble’s closest competitor in the U.S. The app—which was founded in 2012, two years prior to Bumble—has over 50 million users and expects revenue of $800 million this year, making it four times the size of Bumble. The two apps make the bulk of their money from in-app purchases and subscriptions, and have a similar number of paying users. Tinder recently announced it had 3.8 million paying subscribers. As of last year, Bumble had $200 million in revenues and 40 million users, including over 2 million paying ones. With nearly 100% annual growth in users, Bumble is catching up quickly.
The Russian Billionaire Cupid Behind The Biggest Dating App In The World
“Our revenue is remarkable, and it is only going to get better,” says Wolfe Herd, explaining why the company recently began exploring an IPO. “There is a need for a new IPO in this space, and we offer something that nobody else offers. This would allow us to really spread our wings at a new level.”
Bumble has big plans. It has already expanded into an app for both finding friends and business networking with Bumble BFF and Bumble Bizz, though it won’t say how many users it has for the newer areas. In August, the app launched a fund to invest in women-founded companies, and last week, Bumble announced that it is expanding into beauty products.
As for the $400 million that Bumble hopes to win in damages in its lawsuit against Match? Wolfe Herd says that if the company gets that, it will donate some of the funds to causes that benefit women and female empowerment. Some of the money will go into Bumble’s venture fund, while the rest will go to charities that have not yet been chosen.