Looking for a bae in Tampa Bay? Exclusive dating app The League coming to Tampa

The League - a selective dating app that curates users based on profession, education and interests - is launching in the Tampa Bay area Dec. 12. [Courtesy of The League]
The League - a selective dating app that curates users based on profession, education and interests - is launching in the Tampa Bay area Dec. 12. [Courtesy of The League]
Published Dec. 5, 2017

A dating app is hoping to connect some Tampa baes in Tampa Bay.

But while apps such as Tinder and Bumble are open to all, this one, called The League, is looking only for singles of a certain, eh-hem, pedigree.

See, The League isn't trying to be another app available for all users who want to venture into the soul-crushing but occasionally fruitful world of online dating. The League's goal is much narrower — elitist, some would say, but we'll get to that later.

Think ambitious young professionals, career-driven overachievers, Ivy League grads. The app is vying to be the matchmaker for power couples, and it's launching here Dec. 12. Orlando and Pittsburgh are launching the same time, bringing the app's reach to 30 cities.

About 500 people have been chosen by The League's powers that be to be the so-called "founding class."

Some quick and dirty stats about people using the app so far: the top three schools are the University of Florida (11 percent), University of South Florida (9 percent) and Florida State University (6 percent).

The top three employers are Tampa General Hospital (5 percent), Raymond James (4 percent) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (3 percent).

The top jobs? Teacher, attorney and founder, the latter of which doesn't sound any better than the "entrepreneurs" I used to see in my own dating app days (spoilers: they weren't actually entrepreneurs). But The League authenticates your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, so I'll take their word for it.

Clearly, there's a theme developing here.

"Are you told your standards are too high?" reads the app's website. "Keep them that way."

Tampa is the anchor of the app's launch, but people who live within 100 miles of our thriving metropolis can also join, said Meredith Davis, the app's head of communications and partnerships. That includes St. Petersburg and Clearwater and even stretches up to Crystal River, down to North Port and east to Orlando.

The app started in San Francisco and has grown to include cities ranging from New York City and Boston to Phoenix and Raleigh. The League decides where and when it will expand based on how many people sign up on the wait list, Davis said. Tampa got on the app's radar after it launched in Miami over the summer, part of a 10-city expansion.

"Once we launched in Miami, the signups skyrocketed in Tampa," Davis said.

You sign up by downloading the app or entering your phone number into the website , then link your account with your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.

But whether you make the cut or not is determined first by an algorithm — which Davis said categorizes your work, education, interests and photos — then by a review from actual human beings. If you want to move up the wait list, you can either send referrals or pay $200 for an annual membership. Once you're in, the app gives you three potential matches a day you can either pursue or ignore.

Tampa's founding 500 were picked from a group of about 2,500 on the wait list. More people will be let in during a weekly "draft" on Sundays. The app is open now for ages 22 to 32 for women and 23 to 33 for men, Davis said. That will expand as the user base grows.

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Perhaps it's not surprising The League has faced criticism for being elitist and selective to a fault. A Boston Globe article challenged it's readers with the headline: "Are you good enough for Boston's newest dating app?" A Buzzfeed reporter wrote the crowd at a launch party in Montauk, N.Y., was almost exclusively white.

A Gawker article noted the app allows users to filter their partner preferences based on ethnicity, an option Davis confirmed, saying it was directed at users with certain family backgrounds and traditions that "go hand-in-hand with a certain ethnicity."

The company's founder, Amanda Bradford, penned a manifesto on LinkedIn defending the app as an option for alpha females like her to find partners who celebrate their success. Davis pointed out that people already curate their lives anyway based on the people they surround themselves with, where they live and how they spend their time.

"But when we start to curate people's dating lives, this is exclusive and elitist," she said, adding that The League maintains diversity with the "human eye" in that second layer of the screening process.

But as the app ventures away from large, socially conscious cities into the more conservative-leaning south, Davis acknowledged there will be a learning curve.

"It is our job as a tech company to be pushing the needle on opening up their (users') preferences and meeting people they don't think about meeting," she said.

Tampa's founding class ethnicity breakdown, as well as how many users are LGBT, were not immediately available.

But as I read off the data that was to a colleague familiar with online dating, including the top three "About me" sections ("Handsome" -My Grandmother; "I've tried running before, but I kept spilling my wine."; "Be the person your dog thinks you are."), she gave an astute observation:

"This sounds like Tinder."

Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or Follow @kathrynvarn.