What kinds of data can be mined from dating apps? And is dating in D.C. really as bad as we think it is?
Last week, General Assembly explored these questions with Amanda Bradford, founder of dating app The League. The event was moderated by GA’s partnership specialist, Shahier Rahman.
— Shahier Rahman (@ShaTweeter) October 24, 2017
The League is a selective dating app that Bradford has said aspires to be the “Harvard of dating apps.” That has led to criticism that it is elitist. While she didn’t explicitly address those concerns on Tuesday night, Bradford did pop the hood on some of the data science and entrepreneurship behind her business practices. Here are five takeaways from her conversation with Rahman.
1. D.C. is a better town to date in than NYC (kinda)
The League launched in D.C. in 2016, as we covered last November. So after one year of data compilation, the audience wanted to know how the District measured up against other major cities.
“Can we give some hope to the audience?” Rahman jokingly asked Bradford.
“D.C. is one of our pickiest cities,” Bradford said. “We did a survey after the election.”
— Baur Safi (@baursafi) October 24, 2017
She noted some unique trends to her D.C. market, namely that more men sign up to use The League than women, and top feature request in D.C. is political filters for matches.
The good news? “Flakiness is nowhere near New York,” said Bradford
2. Launching an app isn’t only about tech skills.
One of the surprising tidbits shared was that Bradford – who has a BS in Information Systems from Carnegie Melon and an MBA from Stanford’s School of Business – couldn’t contribute much programming to her app.
“I do have a programming background but it’s very rusty and dated from 2007,” she told an audience member during the Q&A. “It’s PHP which no one uses anymore.”
— Baur Safi (@baursafi) October 24, 2017
She did plan on brushing up her programming chops to build The League three years ago, she said, but abandoned the idea early on. Her workaround? “I used Balsamic which lets you wireframe really easily, point and click,” she said. Along with other software Bradford said she created a mockup app to help raise seed funding.
That doesn’t mean programmers aren’t necessary further down the line. (She later hired a classmate from the course she dropped to develop the real app). But it does suggest hope for the would-be app creators out there with minimal coding skill.
3. VR could be the next step for online dating.
“Obviously The League doesn’t exist without mobile phones,” said Rahman during the conversation. “What is the the technology that’s coming around the corner that you think is going to be paradigm shift for how people date 10 years from now?”
“I think VR is coming,” answered Bradford. She described her vision for a “League World” where app users talk to matches remotely with VR headsets and audio calls. “I want to have people go on a first date where it looks like somewhat similar to what they look like in real life.”
The problem? “The technology is not there yet. Nor is the medium,” Bradford admitted.
(For an example of the current technological limitations on VR dating, check out this episode from Condé Nast Entertainment’s new show “Virtual Reality”.)
John and Shelby are set up on a blind date that takes place in a virtual reality world set in outer space.
Posted by Virtually Dating on Tuesday, August 29, 2017
4. The League had more luck with female investors.
“Go pitch young, single angel investors.” Bradford said that was the advice she was given when seeking her seed funding. She ended up rejecting the offers from the three male angel investors she spoke to. “They said, ‘I’d invest if you made it a polyamorous app’.”
Instead, she found female angel investors in their thirties were much more receptive her idea of a more exclusive dating app. “Hold on, I know 10 women for you,” Bradford recalled them saying to her.
5. Sometimes it’s OK to buck conventional wisdom.
A reoccurring theme throughout Bradford’s answers were her deviations from the convention wisdom on how to succeed the online dating industry. During the night she described how she decided to create the League without a cofounder, designed an app without being able to develop it herself, and invested her seed money in engineering instead of marketing.
The risk-taking has also been on view in the streets. The League drew ire this summer after Bradford used Amal Clooney’s picture side-by-side with a reality star’s in a bus ad during the app’s London launch. But Bradford’s stories do suggest that sometimes breaking the mold isn’t always a verboten for entrepreneurs.