Meet the Woman Behind the Ultra-Exclusive Dating App With a 100,000-Person Waiting List

With the dating app field getting crowded as online dating grows in popularity, The League is a newcomer that’s trying to stand out from the crowd.
Described by some as “Tinder for elitists,” the app uses its own algorithm to filter out users who aren’t good enough to join. The app relies on LinkedIn information, education and career to vet users. Users who are deemed “flaky” or disrespectful are kicked out.
Currently, the app’s typical user is more likely to be female, in their late 20s and with an advanced degree, according to Business Insider. The app is mostly used by doctors, lawyers and tech executives. Amanda Bradford, the app’s creator, told NextShark:
“If you think of Tinder as an all-you-can-drink bar in Cancun, we are trying to be a high-end cocktail bar where you can’t have any flip flops, no shorts, that kind of vibe.”
Amanda Bradford, 30, is an entrepreneur with an incredible resume. After attending Carnegie Mellon as an undergrad and then Stanford for graduate school, Bradford worked with notable companies like top venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, SalesForce and Google before launching The League.
The League launched in San Francisco late last year with 4,500 beta users and recently opened up to 2,500 users in New York. The company claims to have a waitlist of almost 100,000 people. Earlier this year, they announced that they had raised a $2.1 million seed round from numerous angel investors, VC firms and five of Bradford’s former professors at Stanford.
Bradford told NextShark that she came up with the idea while trying to figure how to deal with issues she came across while online dating.
“There were a couple of different issues that bothered me with a lot of the dating apps out there. One was just a complete lack of privacy and separation between work and personal. The last thing I wanted was to see my boss and coworkers on a dating site. That was really why I thought integrating with LinkedIn could prevent all of that; you could block coworkers or business connections that you may be doing business deals with.
The next point is that a lot of them focused on the photo and what you look like. While I think that’s very significant in terms or whether you’re gonna swipe right or left, I do think there are other things to think about when determining compatibility other than level of attraction. I felt that they were not giving me much to go on. You had no idea if the person was backpacker in town for a month, versus a doctor that had no time to date, versus some tech startup person. I felt by putting that info up first, the resulting match would be a lot more powerful and effective at getting people to connect online.
The third was that I just felt annoyed that with other apps, 90 percent of the profiles I saw were not profiles that I felt were a good match for me. I really wanted a curated experience where you may not get as many profiles but the profiles you see are ideally people you may actually be interested in.”
Privacy is an important concern for Bradford’s app. The League’s default setting makes it so that a user’s profile is never shown to that person’s co-workers, Facebook friends or Linkedin connections.
In addition, the app has a “VIP setting” that, according to Bradford, lets users “hide [their] profile from others in the community to have that extra layer of privacy.”
Ironically, though, for an app that focuses so much on privacy, it also requires an equal amount of transparency.
“In this platform, you are linking with LinkedIn and showing people where you work and where you went to school. if you do something inappropriate, we have a kind of concierge that can kick you out, which we have, but not many people. Because of that transparency, people are just that much more respectful and it just feels like more a classy place to meet. We curate people who don’t fit in the community and make sure things stay respectful.”
Users who are “hearted” more than 80% of the other members are invited to “go steady” with the app and encouraged to sign a contract promising certain benefits if they agree not to use any other dating app.
Considering Tinder is the reigning dating app, with its quick-swipe model centered around users’ pictures, online dating in general has developed a stigma of superficiality. Bradford still sees online dating as an obvious choice, however:
“I don’t know anyone with a brain who would say that online dating is not a more efficient way of meeting more people in a short amount of time. Just as Uber is a more efficient than hailing a cab in the street, I think online dating is more efficient than going to 10 parties in a week hoping that people who have your preferences are going to bump into you and buy you a drink. I think that’s kind of naive and wishful thinking.
I’d love for us all to meet in person, but the reality is that the guys I want to meet are busy working on their career and that’s what I’m attracted to. I’m also busy working on my career, so the chance of us actually meeting is so slim that I think that there is no better way to meet than digitally where you can coordinate with these people.”
With some Silicon Valley matchmakers charging as much as $100,000 to help people find potential mates, Bradford might be onto something.
“I see The League as taking market share from Tinder, from Hinge, but also from high amount matchmaker who are charging upwards of $10,000, and I kind of see us as serving all three of those markets, so that’s kind of the beauty of it.”
While the premise of The League sounds great on paper, it’s also been met with a lot of scrutiny. Huffington Post and Bloomberg have all criticized the app as being elitist and superficial. When asked to address these criticisms, Bradford said:
“You can call us what you want, but at the end of the day, it’s replicating what’s happening in real life: people are meeting through friends, people are meeting through work; they are meeting through the college they attend, and these are all curated environments. These are all heavily vetted environments, so the common thread of where people meet their significant others are all heavily vetted environments, so I don’t know see why a dating app wouldn’t apply the same methodologies.”
Attendees at a party organized by The League
As a user herself on her app, Bradford says she’s found success in her dating life as well.
“I actually dated a guy for three months on The League. So, I consider it a success. I’m back on The League and looking for my next Prince Charming, but it’s exactly what I designed; the people I end up meeting are people that I would hope to meet in the real world, but just don’t have the time to.”
While the app is gaining great traction, Bradford admits that her app still has a long way to go.
“Well I think that the business of connecting people is pretty fulfilling. The feedback I’ve gotten, and the lives we’ve already changed – well we don’t have any marriages yet – but we do have quite a few people who are in pretty serious relationships based on meeting through the app, and that is an incredibly rewarding feeling.
I do think the dating space is changing rapidly, and I do think this is the primary way millennials are dating and meeting, and it’s actually a monumental step, and I definitely like being on the forefront of it. Dating is really changing in 2015 and beyond. And so I hopefully see myself really becoming a thought leader and respected leader who can help navigate the changes that our generation is going through and really just be a source of inspiration and knowledge for people who are trying to figure out this new mobile dating world.”
If you think you might be a candidate to join The League, check out their website
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