It's being called the Ivy League app of the dating world, promising to pair users with attractive, successful, and highly-educated members. If you can get in, that is.
"The League" is an invite-only dating app that’s so exclusive, it has more than 100,000 singles on its wait list. Currently, the app is only available in San Francisco and will be launching in New York City next month.
It’s the brainchild of former Google employee and Stanford business grad Amanda Bradford, 30, who started the app when she became frustrated with her own online dating experience.
“I didn’t know much about the users other than what they look like on a lot of these apps,” said Bradford, who is company's founder and CEO. “I’m attracted to a lot more than just looks.”
She said she wasted far too much time vetting potential dates online, and that The League essentially does the job for users.
“Every women that I know Google someone before they meet them for coffee… at least in my group of friends,” Bradford said. “I’m not going to meet someone – a stranger -- for coffee without doing a little bit of due diligence on them… so I think this is happening anyway, so let’s just be upfront about it.”
Only a few months old, The League’s curated matches are earning buzz in the crowded online dating space that includes Tinder, Hinge and OKCupid, among others. The League is different because the app limits its membership to referrals and applicants whose photos, Facebook and Linkedin accounts pass muster. The result, the company claims, is a hand-selected pool of catches.
Paul Brunson has been a full-time professional matchmaker for six years and says the League’s appeal boils down to people searching for a mate like themselves, “to find someone who grew up like them, who makes as much money as them.
“That’s what people want now,” Brunson added.
But it’s hard not to notice the pattern of Ivy League degrees and white collar job holders in The League’s user base.
When asked if her app was elitist, Bradford said, “It’s a classy app. It’s for people with high standards.”
Those standards have led some to accuse her of building “Tinder for Snobs,” but Bradford denies that.
“I think that anytime you’re selecting a group of people, you’re going to get that criticism,” she said. “But if you look at where people meet their significant others, it’s through work, it’s through friends of friends, it’s through college and all of those are very vetted, curated communities, so I don’t see why a dating app wouldn’t employ the same methods.”
Experts warn that this type of extreme curation may limit the dating pool, potentially removing spontaneous love connections.
“We’ll be so focused on our phones and our online matches, that we won’t ever look up and see someone who may be potentially perfect for us,” Paul Brunson said.
But it’s a risk many of The League’s users are willing to take.
Alexandra Duisberg is a self-described overachiever, a former Olympic skater and a fourth-year med student at University of Pennsylvania, who said she probably wouldn’t be dating if it weren’t for The League.
“It’s people who are intelligent and passionate about making an impact in whatever space they are doing it… at least that’s how I view my career too," she said.
Duisberg is now happily dating Josh, 31, a finance guy with a degree from Columbia Business School, who is also a pianist and a skilled archer. The two met at a League mixer, scheduled events put on by the company where online matches are encouraged to meet in person, and get some personal advice on their profiles from founder Amanda Bradford herself.
Outside of mixers, users can set up dates themselves. Brianna Haag, 30, is a marketing manager who is new to The League, found a match with Matt, a 31-year-old content manager at a tech company in San Francisco.
If they make a love connection, they can get off the app, and one of the several thousands of people on the waitlist can take their place.
“The wait list is for a reason, and that’s probably one of the benefits of it,” Matt said, adding that he doesn’t believe the app is elitist. “It puts the right people, who have a lot of similarities, together.”