The League Comes to Houston: A Most Exclusive Club That May Not Want You As a Member
Screenshot of the League's website.

The League Comes to Houston: A Most Exclusive Club That May Not Want You As a Member

On June 27, The League, a dating app whose exclusivity has generated a lot of buzz, will launch in Houston. Unlike with other mainstream dating apps — say, Tinder or Bumble — you have to be vetted before you can join, and you might not get in.

The League requires a LinkedIn profile and a Facebook page, as well as six photos, to be submitted as part of a user’s application to join. This is so users can be verified as real human beings (and not robots, or ax murderers). The app’s nature has been a double-edged sword: creating controversy and inciting an elitist label on the one hand, and driving interest on the other.

When the app first launched in 2014 with the tagline “Get Me Off Tinder,” it was available only to people living in New York and San Francisco. Now The League is looking to take root in three of Texas’s largest cities: Houston, Austin and Dallas. The app’s new tagline is “Date Intelligently,” and it’s presented as a more substantial alternative to Tinder.

Why Texas, and why Houston? CEO and founder Amanda Bradford told the Houston Press the reason was simple: The company wants to set up shop in the big cities people are moving to next. Houston’s size and recent growth qualify. Bradford grew up right outside Austin and said Texas has been on her list for a while. She hopes to have 10,000 Houstonians registered by the time The League goes live next week, and when she spoke with us, she said that already about 7,000 had signed up.

The company has been hosting promotional launch parties in its new markets as part of its national expansion. Tuesday night’s mixer at Rosemont Social Club in Montrose was a hodgepodge of ethnicities, ages and professions — from CPAs to speech pathologists. To get in, you had to be invited, download the app and make a profile. Guests were greeted with a drink ticket, a bracelet and a deck of “go swipe” cards. League-themed memorabilia littered the tables, printed with slogans such as “Swing for the fences!”

Bradford, whose résumé includes positions at Google and Evernote, sees the app as an attractive solution for those too busy with work for a normal dating life. The parameters users can adjust include educational background, height, distance and religion. Bradford maintains the app is not elitist, nor is it just for bored trust-fund kids. You don’t have to pay to use it (there is, as Bradford called it, a “freemium” version), but you can pay to be bumped up on the waiting list or to send someone extra gifts to grab his or her attention.

The app’s name is a play on the term “Ivy League,” an apt term considering the waiting list, and Bradford compares getting into it to the college admissions process. “We value drive and ambition over income,” she told the Press. “Someone who wrote a novel and didn’t make a lot of money off it would be valued more than, say, someone who inherited a bunch of money and just sort of hung around with it.” She also noted that income level was not one of the filters for prospective matches, and has said in the past that income and background do not automatically keep applicants from being accepted.

If you are accepted to the app, your digital “concierge” sends you a message explaining the rules, and there are a lot of them. Matches are sent to you at a certain time every day, and you can choose whom to engage with. Similarly to other dating apps, if both people signal interest, they’re matched, though they might not be shown to each other on the same day. From there, you can message each other to set up a date. If you don’t engage enough with other users for long enough, though, you earn a poor “flakiness” rating, are shown fewer matches and eventually get kicked off.

With Houston’s population now more than two million, The League certainly has an impressive applicant pool to draw from. Everyone who signed up is still on a waiting list, and won’t know whether he or she has been accepted until it goes live next week. The answer to whether The League will spice up Houston’s dating scene will have to wait at least until then.

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