These days, a lot of dating starts at the fingertips. Mobile apps help millennials navigate their worlds by giving them options to choose their preferences and find their own communities.
For example, there is Tinder and other dating apps created for easy hook-ups, while JDate is for specific religions. Celebrities gravitate to Raya, while some users prefer Eharmony for romance. Looking to avoid the male gaze? Try Bumble. And the LGBTQ community has found a home in Grindr and Zoosk.
One of the newest platforms, The League, has quickly become known as a notoriously hard-to-get-in community of upper echelon daters. Since its New York and LA launches in 2015, the app has attracted and selectively provided access to some of the country’s most educated and wealthy bachelors.
The app officially launches in Miami on Tuesday, and the organizers threw a party at Soho House on June 8 for the 150 founding Miami users – people who The League felt “fit their #powercouple brand and aspire to change modern dating culture for the better.” They said the group was mostly made up of doctors, lawyers, MBAs, and women in tech.
The goal? To create a community of ambitious go-getters in an effort to “cultivates the desire for an egalitarian relationship in both sexes.”
Founder and CEO Amanda Bradford spoke to us about what makes The League so unique, why she is unapologetic about its audience, and how she address those who classify the app as ‘elitist’.
Why did you create The League?
Dating apps are such a competitive industry, but the more I looked into it, the more I realized there’s not that many people trying to solve the problem, there’s just a lot of people trying to make money around it.
What did you see as ‘the problem’?
I had just gotten out of a five-year relationship and started trying the dating apps. I found myself having the same issues as many people – I didn’t know where they actually lived, I didn’t know if they had a job, I didn’t know how tall they were, I didn’t know if they were career-oriented, I didn’t know if they wanted an ambitious woman. It was all “hot or not” – you had to go through hours of vetting. You’re trying to understand who this person is so you can guess whether or not it’s worth your time to meet them, especially when you may only have an hour a week to date.
You also wanted to focus on the woman’s POV, true?
Yes, I had just gotten out of business school, where there are a lot of ambitious, high-achieving men and women, and I took that for granted – out in the regular world, not all guys are attractive to opinionated, loud, ambitious alpha-women.
How does The League fix that issue?
We ask all these things on registration through Facebook and LinkedIn, so we know what you do – what you spend 70 hours a week thinking about, we get more context. We are looking to partner equals and people who want equal relationships. Once you’re in, it’s as frictionless and efficient as possible. We already asked the awkward questions (about how tall you are, where do you work, where do you live, what neighborhood). I always joke that “heavy petting is more fun than heavy vetting.”
Miami is our eighth city, and we noticed that New Yorkers, our #1 market, are relocating in droves to Miami each year. It’s female-founded like us and has the largest concentration of international banks in the country (which is the No. 1 profession on The League). Miami is also built on the back of entrepreneurs, the No. 2 most common profession in The League after finance. We’ve also seen how big the healthcare industry is here.
What else has been different about your Miami approach?
We thought a lot about what venue we wanted to align with. We wanted to choose one that was cool, hip and creative, not ‘Ivy League’ – that’s not going to fly here. This is about are you aspirational, ambitious, entrepreneurial, movers and shakers, and influencers. A lot of reason why we’re here now is to plan a big party around Art Basel – there’s a lot of art world here. We also noticed a big Jewish population, and one-third of our users are Jewish.
Any challenges in launching here thus far?
It seems like less of a LinkedIn culture, so we had to reach out and help people set that up. Also, we had never heard of a lot of universities that people listed because they were in Central and South America, so we had to research that. That’s why we have human review; we spend a lot of money ensuring this isn’t just an algorithm.
Any other idiosyncrasies you’ve noticed?
Well, many of the best and brightest of the Latin American world seem to flock to Miami, which is an amazing audience and means the nightlife scene is even better! (laughs) It’s a lively culture, and we also see this as a gateway for us to launch in Latin America.
How do you address the critics who call The League elitist?
I think people confuse our criteria with income, and it’s really not about income for us. We try to screen for ambition – do you have your sh** together, are you aspirational, are you trying to make it? It’s less about have you made it and do you have “X” dollars in your bank account and more about overall drive. What we try to do is curate a community – where you tend to meet people tends to be [in] curated environments. I know very few people that met in a very random situation like in a coffee bar. Work, college, dinner parties, etcetera – that is how people usually meet, so if that works, why not build a dating platform around the fact that that works? I’m in it for the users to connect. I’m not in it to be everything to everyone; we’re trying to be the most effective. If I know who I need to connect you with, I’m going to find those people. We have a very niche demographic and we’re OK with that.
Miamians who log into the all-mobile platform on its opening day Tuesday will be granted a complimentary annual membership worth $180 if they’re one of the lucky 2,000 selected to be in the “Founding Class.” If not, they’ll be added to the Miami waitlist, which The League team says will quickly grow to 10,000 people. Currently, their New York community is kept in the low ten thousands, and has a roughly one-year wait list (although you can pay to move to the top of the line or get a VIP referral to be accepted more quickly).