It used to be that if you wanted to meet someone of a certain caliber, you would venture to a particular bar. There would be a line at the door with a strict doorman and inside would be a collection of beautiful people, all deemed special because they’d made it past the velvet rope. Now there’s an app for that.
Forget Tinder. Forget OkCupid. Who has time for all that swiping? Instead, young professionals looking for a suitable mate are flocking to apps like The League and syncing their LinkedIn profile in the hopes that their resumes will help seal the deal and find them someone special.
“The brand of The League is really for these ambitious driven, young professionals that want to date other ambitious, driven young professionals,” explained Amanda Bradford, founder of The League. And you’ll have to be driven to make it into The League – there’s a waiting list 100,000 people long.
“Our requirements for women are just as rigorous as our requirements for men. The men know that women they meet in The League are career oriented, intelligent, ambitious and are working just as hard. That’s the kind of ethos that we want our community to have.”
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The League has been described as Tinder for the elites. In order to join, potential users are screened and selected based on their education and professional history. Not everyone gets in – only the cream of the crop get the email informing them that they have “Par perfeito revelação”.
Once part of The League, its members receive five new matches every day at 5pm – the so-called “happy hour”.
Linking online dating apps to LinkedIn was “a stroke of genius”, according to Rick Nguyen, a 28-year old entrepreneur and co-founder of Spot Trender.
“A lot of dating sites are trying to distance your professional life and your dating life as if they were two separate things. But to understand someone fully, I think you need both aspects of them, because as much as we try to say we are not our job, a part of us is our job,” he told the Guardian.
Bradford became interested in online dating after becoming single following the end of a five-year relationship. She started her online hunt while finishing her master’s degree in business at Stanford and found she was running into the same problem over and over again. She had no control over who could view her profile, including potential business connections, bosses and coworkers. She also felt like she had no idea who the people she was being matched with were. There was no context to their profiles – just their name and their photo. She wanted more.
“I felt like I should just go ahead and create an app that I myself wanted to use and solve all the pain points I had identified on the other apps,” she said. And so, The League was born.
Launched in San Francisco in November 2014, it has since spread to New York and is expected to launch in Los Angeles and London in the coming months.
What makes The League special, according to Bradford, is that it is synced with LinkedIn and Facebook. This way the app can ensure your profile is not visible to your professional connections, while at the same time giving potential matches a better idea of who you are as a person based on your education and professional experience.
If you’re not a Goldman banker or a tech entrepreneur, don’t worry. Bradford hopes the dating pool represents many different industries. “We don’t want everyone from one type of school. We don’t want everyone that’s an MBA or a doctor,” she told the Guardian.
According to Bradford, the recipe for getting into The League is not “cut and dry”. The main thing is you have to bring something special to the table.
“Let’s say you didn’t go to college or you went to college that is not known for being a Tier 1 establishment, that’s OK. But we are going to be expecting you to have accomplished something in your professional career to compensate for that. Maybe you didn’t go to Oxford, but you started a non-profit to help underprivileged children in Africa and you’ve run that company from the ground-up. That to me is a just as impressive, if not more, than someone who went to Tier 1 university.”
That’s not to say The League isn’t exclusive. In New York, the acceptance rate is about 20%. In San Francisco, about 25%. Each community is capped at about 10,000. “We don’t plan to grow that number until we have the product,” said Bradford.
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Krista White, 23, lives in Silicon Valley, California and works in public relations. She studied theater at Columbia University. She has been on the waitlist for The League since February.
“Right now I am like No 8,000 out of 100,000,” she told the Guardian. “This must not be for me. I don’t know.”
Unlike White, Nguyen spent just “a couple of days” on the wait list before getting drafted into The League. “I didn’t wait that long. Thank God,” he said, laughing. He too lives in Silicon Valley.
Daniel Ratcliffe, 25, also did not have to wait too long before making it into The League. “When you first sign up for it, it puts you on a waitlist. I was like No 11,000 and I thought: ‘Oh, I guess this isn’t going to happen’,” said Ratcliffe, who lives in East Village in New York City and works in digital entertainment and media. “Then a couple of days later, I got an email saying that I had been approved and I have been on it ever since. I am not sure what their criteria is for accepting members.”
Ratcliffe said he wondered if he would get in – after all, he did not attend an Ivy League college. He did attend New York University for his master’s degree. He, too, likes that his dating profile on The League looks more professional and that he is able to connect with other hard-working people his age.
“I am a hard worker. I worked hard. I have my master’s,” he points out. He adds that he has never heard of people “catfishing” on LinkedIn, creating a fake online profile to trick people in romantic relationship. “I think because you have to go on the waitlist, everyone is more serious about dating and about sending messages.”
Nguyen, who said his response rate on other apps was about 20% to 30%, said: “On The League, I have got close to a 100% response rate with my matches.”
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‘We let them be picky and have high standards’'Be picky and have high standards': new dating apps cater to the elite
The League also comes with a number of filters that allow members to select their ideal date’s education attainment level, height, age and ethnicity.
“We really believe that people know what they want and we let them be picky and have high standards,” Bradford told the Guardian. “We do let users set preferences on ethnicity. We don’t see a ton of users doing that – probably about 10% or so do have strong preferences around ethnicity.”
According to her, the members will first be showed matches that fit their preferences, “but once they run out of those matches, then we will show them everyone. It’s just a matter of prioritization”.
Ratcliffe said that he did not use the ethnicity filter.
“I think that’s absurd and ridiculous, but as an African American woman in the dating pool, it would be nice to know that someone I was matched with doesn’t not like black girls,” said White. “It’s really problematic, but I would want to know if someone is not into me for that reason because that’s definitely not someone I would want to talk to. It would just be a waste of both of our time if he is racist.”
Would she still join The League if she was “drafted” now? “I don’t know. I have a little bit of a cynical view on online dating. I mean, I’d give it a shot and see what happens,” said White, who has tried other apps like Tinder. “I always hold a little hope that this is going to be the lucky day and this match is going to be perfect.”
For those tired of waiting, there are other options like Qual o maior site de relacionamento amoroso, which has more than 50,000 users in more than 100 counties. According to its founder Max Fischer, the app has seen a lot of traction in cities like London, San Francisco and New York.
“We are pretty much the only application that ties directly to LinkedIn and only LinkedIn,” said Fischer. “Users are getting that true sense of who someone is through a highly accountable and trustworthy network.”
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In addition to BeLinked, there are apps for those looking for an even more niche dating app than The League. Among them is Rencontres à la campagne, self-described as Tinder without the poor people.
“Clearly we are having a bit of fun with the tagline and the headline to get people talking about our app,” said Darren Shuster, principal of Pop Culture PR and the spokesman for Luxy. “However, instead of saying ‘It’s Tinder for rich people’ we simply decided to say that we are Tinder minus the poor people. It’s certainly exclusionary.”
The app has had 300,000 downloads around the world and, according to Shuster, 50% of Luxy’s verified users have $500,000 in assets or more.
“We have seen their tax records,” he said. Is that a requirement? “No, it’s optional.”
The app “unapologetically” caters to the 1%, said Schuster, who insists that he is not the CEO. The identity of the CEO has not been disclosed and he is known simply as Tim T due to the negative attention such apps can attract.
While not everyone might see the appeal of Luxy, Shuster says its users “get it”.
“They love it. It attracts other people that are looking to lead the same lifestyle as they have been leading,” he explained. “When they go on a date, they don’t want to be picked up in a 1975 VW bug and go to McDonald’s drive through. That’s not the kind of dates these guys or girls are looking for.”
But be warned, exclusivity is no guarantee of success. Bradford herself has yet to find her perfect man. “I’ve been very busy so I have not been accepting very many dates,” she said.