The controversial ‘Tinder for Elites’ has reached a do-or-die moment

Amanda bradford, the league, sv100 2015
The League’s founder, Amanda Bradford. The League/Facebook

The League, the controversial dating app dubbed the “Tinder for elites,” is kicking off an aggressive expansion plan with a launch in Los Angeles.

But more important than the new cities is The League’s imminent attempts to make money off the app. The app has reached a do-or-die moment, and the next few months will show whether it has actual customers — or just people who were curious what all the internet fuss was about.

The core function of The League is similar to Tinder, but it restricts its pool of singles to those who are “ambitious young professionals,” determined by an algorithm that examine things like LinkedIn connections. To say that goal has rubbed some people the wrong way would be an understatement.

The launch in LA marks only the third city The League has moved into (besides San Francisco and New York City). CEO Amanda Bradford tells Business Insider this is because the startup spent most of the last year rebuilding its app from the ground up because it wouldn’t scale properly.

“We decided to pull the band-aid off now,” Bradford says. The League migrated all its users over to the new platform in February. After LA, The League plans to launch in more major cities around the US and the world.

The expansion coincides with The League’s first major attempt to make money.

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The League has rolled out ‘events.’ The League

“Ads aren’t feasible for us,” Bradford explains. Her plan is to institute a freemium model where users can pay for extra features that resemble an online members-only club. The League has already begun to roll out things like “events” and “groups” to bring singles together in ways that aren’t a one-on-one date. Bradford talks about it like a post-university extension of the kind of mingling that happens — for students of certain persuasions — at elite colleges like Stanford, where she got her MBA.

The question is whether users find enough value in the “community” The League is trying to build to pay for it. Bradford clearly realises that with the low number of users (by design), The League will have to convert far more of its free users to paying ones than the average freemium app. If that’s not possible, it’s bad news for The League, Bradford says.

“If our members don’t want to pay, we will have to open it up,” Bradford says.

And then the Tinder for ambitious young professionals will become just, well, Tinder.

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