Three years ago, Amanda Bradford, recently single, started exploring sites like Tinder and OkCupid to broaden her dating pool.
“I was highly motivated,” she says with a laugh.
But she kept encountering the same problem: Though all the profiles included a photo, they weren’t fleshed out with details like education, professional background and interests.
Bradford found herself digging deeper online, vetting her dates on Twitter and LinkedIn. She discovered that a lot of the men she was matched with were turned off by ambitious, career-oriented women. In fact, many were looking for trophy wives and one-night stands.
So she set out to create a dating site to facilitate “egalitarian, progressive relationships.” In November 2014, Bradford launched The League to an exclusive group of 300 users in San Francisco.
After some retooling to refine its algorithms, The League rolled out in several major cities including New York, Chicago, Washington, DC and Los Angeles. And this month, it went live to a “founding class” of 512 users in Pittsburgh — think entrepreneurs, techies and legal and medical professionals with demanding schedules.
More than 2,000 other Pittsburghers were waitlisted (which may explain rumblings that The League is “elitist.”) The League’s rigorous screening process requires users to connect their profiles to their LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, so users with preferences that don’t sync with a high enough number of potential mates may still make the cut as the community grows.
Only 21 percent of those who applied were accepted in the “founding class.” (See chart above for more stats).
“I like to say we’re ‘selective,’” says Bradford, a Carnegie Mellon University alumna who spent time at Salesforce and Google before branching off on her own. “The two places where people meet significant others are in the workplace — which can be risky — and school. Both those environments are very selective.”
Erin Smith heard about The League after its New York launch, when some of her friends signed up. She’s excited that the app has finally arrived in Pittsburgh.
“They do a good job about trying to keep the app about looking to meet, and I like that it isn’t about swiping on an endless supply of people,” says Smith, a women’s denim merchant at the American Eagle Outfitters corporate office. She moved to Pittsburgh in 2013 after graduating from Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
Smith hopes to connect with a partner who is hard-working, driven and loves to travel.
Though Bradford can’t guarantee that Smith will find true love, she says the value proposition of the app is that users get to meet people they wouldn’t usually encounter in their social circles.
“We had a surgeon on The League who had no time — the worst schedule — and was never going to meet someone outside of his small world,” she says. “We matched him with a lawyer who traveled a lot. They made it work — they flew to each other, met once a week and now they’re getting married.”
And they’re not the only ones.
Anna Frances Wood met her fiance, Tracy Thomas, II, in the summer of 2015. Today, they’re planning an August wedding in Los Angeles.
“Following my passion and pursuing my dream makes our relationship happier and more fulfilled, and I support Tracy in the same way,” says Wood, who launched the feminist lifestyle platform Brains Over Blonde this summer.
Before finding The League, Wood tried other dating apps for fun but had “a few horror stories.”
“People lie about everything from their height to their name, and it’s hard to trust that they won’t lie about bigger things too,” she says.
Trust is key to The League’s success.
“Once you’re inside the community, people feel very connected to each other,” says Bradford. “We create an environment where people are trusting of the system and each other.”