Amanda Bradford,CEO of San Francisco based dating app ‘The League’ talks funding,expansion,elitism,curated communities and differentiating in a crowded marketplace!


When I envisioned myself starting a company, I never dreamed it would be a dating app. First of all, the space is littered with graves of failed startups. Talk about a crowded space with a dearth of success stories! Second of all, dating sites, and the people that start them, are not particularly known for being ‘innovative’, and innovation is something I was determined to have present in any company I started or joined. Lastly, as any good consumer investor will tell you, doing anything in consumer mobile space is incredibly risky with essentially the lowest probability of success, and being a pragmatist, I would have preferred to derisk my venture by doing something in enterprise.

But when Tinder came onto the scene, everything changed, including my outlook. Being the multi-tasking millennial I am, I quickly realized that dating apps were a MUCH more efficient and effective way to meet new people and I noticed a clear shift in the dating behaviors of all of my peers. No longer were we required to go to a loud crowded bar and cross our fingers that we struck up a conversation with someone special. We could finally take the process of meeting new people, and dating, into our own hands. But there were some issues I, and my peers, had with the current dating platforms.

The League App

For one, there was zero concept of privacy. I did NOT want to match with my Facebook friends, LinkedIn business connections, or anyone I worked with. It was awkward when you saw a coworker pop up on your screen. This is where double authentication with Facebook & LinkedIn could screen out these awkward situations. Second, I didn’t want to play ‘hot or not’ for something this important. I didn’t like the dearth of information there was on a profile. Prior to talking to a match, I would try to find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and instagram to get more context on a person, as there’s a lot more to people than their photo. This due diligence was incredibly time consuming and inefficient, and it was irritating that this information wasn’t at my fingertips. Thus, importing info from FB & LinkedIn solved with problem. Finally, I wanted a pool of high-achieving singles that were looking to date other career-oriented, ambitious, type-A people. People that saw relationships as equal partnerships. This is where the curated application-only community made sense.

Having done plenty of research in the space (and having worked in venture before), I didn’t think of asking anyone for funding until I had a prototype that I could prove out my hypothesis that busy, well-educated and career-oriented people were in need of a dating app tailored for their lifestyle. I tested my hypothesis with MBA’s (I was one myself), doctors, lawyers, VC’s, tech managers, entrepreneurs, nonprofit founders and those in academia.

We launched with just 1,000 people in San Francisco, and people loved the product! We saw incredibly high outbound messaging rates, near-perfect response rates, and a very high percentage of matches actually meeting up in person (which is practically unheard of on all the game-like apps out there). As people referred friends in, our growth skyrocketed, and angel & venture funding soon followed. We closed our seed round at $2.1M with an impressive list of investors.

People now equate the league with smart, intelligent, high-achieving people that are incredibly busy chasing their dreams. The League is matching power-couples. It’s not an app for everyone, nor does it have to be. But there’s enough of these people in cities around the world that are looking for this that I have zero doubt The League will become a global brand for high achievers.

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