With 35 percent of new marriages and 45 percent of couples meeting online, the dating app industry is getting more competitive.
The League, an exclusive dating app targeted at educated professionals, launched in Scottsdale earlier this month with 500 users.
The company is taking an untraditional approach to dating apps by allowing a select group of people to use the app, who must pass an application process, not unlike applying for college.
Once someone sends in an application, they may sit on a waitlist for months before being admitted or getting admittance immediately.
CEO and Founder Amanda Bradford said in the company’s mission statement, “I wanted to build a community where smart, outspoken, high-achieving women are celebrated and encouraged to progress in their career full-time. I wanted to never EVER hear a woman be worried that her educational achievements or career ambition would be a turn-off.”
Meredith Davis, head of communications at the League, said the exclusive nature of the app is meant to create a more equal dating experience for women.
“We are really trying to create a community where education and career are valued in one’s dating life,” Davis said.
The app works by requiring users to link their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles when they apply to be a member of the League app. An algorithm then sees whether the education and career profiles match the League’s requirements. The area’s top schools and unique jobs are preferred. Applications that pass the initial algorithm are reviewed by a person who judges whether someone will qualify to be on the league, Davis said.
“There is no one that gets into the League without being seen by a human eye, and I think our community really values that, ” Davis said.
Phoenix’s top schools according to the league are University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business and the University of Southern California. The top companies are Intel, Yelp and Vanguard.
“It’s not about going to an Ivy League school,” Davis said. “It’s did you care about your education to go to school… are you aspiring to be a great asset to this community?”
Davis said the League wants to create a community where people can connect with people who share the same level of drive as them.
“I feel like we are constantly curating all of our communities,” Davis said. “Why do you choose the job that you go to or the school that you go to or the neighborhood that you move to? You are curating your life because you want to be surrounded by likeminded, similar people who are also career-focused and ambitious.”
Davis said the League’s admission process is not a “perfect science.”
“We are definitely merit based and admissions based,” Davis said. “Think about when you apply to college. You apply with your SAT score, you apply with your extracurriculars and you apply with your grades. You are presenting yourself on paper. Now I know that there’s great people who don’t get into a Yale or a Stanford because they don’t present themselves as well on paper as they do in real life. We understand that there is a flaw in the system and some great people do slip through the cracks.”
The league has a different user experience compared to typical dating apps. Instead of swiping right on profiles, users are matched with people based on their preferences. Users only receive up to five matches per day that are dispersed to users at the app’s “happy hour” at 5 pm.
Users are able to set very specific preferences for those they want to be matched with including education, distance, height, age, religion and ethnicity.
Davis said users are not using these preferences to discriminate against potential matches.
“What we’ve found is that people will actually keep themselves open, more so than select for a certain ethnicity, and the people who are looking for a certain ethnicity, it’s usually people who value their family’s traditions and mostly religion,” Davis said.
Because elite universities are dominated by white and high income students, critics of the app say it promotes a lack of diversity, but Davis said the human reviewed application process allows the League to create a diverse group.
Additionally, Davis said the app’s rules promote a culture for serious relationships not hook ups. Users that do not return messages or are infrequently active get kicked back to the waitlist.
“I would love to say that everyone on the League is looking for a serious relationship, but I can’t promise that,” Davis said. “I do strongly believe that our wait list helps with that.”
According to Davis, regardless of what critics say the app’s mission is not to promote elitism, but rather for highly educated and driven individuals to find successful relationships.
“I think quality over quantity is our big differentiator,” Davis said.