Match Group acquires members-only dating app The League

Match Group, the parent company of several popular dating apps including Tinder and Hinge, has acquired exclusive dating app The League, a spokesperson from the company confirmed to TechCrunch. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Founded in 2014, The League is a highly-selective dating app designed to match ambitious and career-focused people looking for a long-term relationship.

TechCrunch was first alerted to the closing of the deal when an unknown source sent us a copy of the company’s internal announcement email from Match Group CEO Bernard Kim.

“We have just closed our acquisition of The League, a premium, niche dating app with a curated member base focused on matching career-oriented users looking for a serious relationship,” Kim wrote in the email.

According to The League’s app description, it’s a “dating community designed for the overly ambitious that know what they want and refuse to settle.” The app has an admissions-based model where potential users can apply to join by submitting their social media profiles. Users are then waitlisted until they pass a screening algorithm and review process, which is designed to ensure that the app gives matches users with similar career goals and ambitions.

The League can be used for free as a “guest,” or you can become a member by purchasing a subscription, which doubles your matches. Depending on the subscription term you choose, your membership can last for one week, one month, three months, six months or 12 months. The company’s website notes that a membership gives you access to a higher quantity and quality of matches.

The app has faced criticism over the years since its launch, as some view it as elitist. The League founder and CEO Amanda Bradford has repeatedly defended the app from claims that it’s elitist, noting that anyone can apply to join the dating app regardless of factors like their income, the family they’re from, their profession, or what schools they’ve attended.

The League joins Match Group’s extensive roster of dating apps, including Tinder, Match, Hinge, Meetic, OkCupid, Pairs, PlentyOfFish, OurTime, Azar and more.

Match Group’s acquisition news comes as Google has responded to the company’s antitrust lawsuit in a new court filing that refers to Match’s original complaint as a “cynical attempt” to take advantage of Google Play’s distribution platform and other tools while attempting to sidestep Google’s fees. The two tech giants have been battling it out in court after Match sued Google this May over its alleged monopoly power in Android app payments.

Virtual dates and video speed dating: Group launches a $50 million corporate venture fund 

The dating startup world is notorious for few exits, and a similarly slim number of buyers. There’s Match Group, which owns Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid, and there’s Spark Networks, which owns Christian Mingle, JSwipe, Jdate and Zoosk. Group also owns a slew of dating brands, like Dil Mil, a dating app for South Asians. And it just closed a $50 million corporate venture capital fund to invest in more.

Dmitry Volkov, the founder of Group, said that he’s looking for startups beyond swipe mechanics, referring indirectly to companies like Hinge, Tinder and Bumble, in which users can swipe through profiles of eligible individuals. 

“The new mainstream product mechanic is yet to be discovered,” he noted. Beyond capital, Volkov thinks startups can use Group for technical talent and product advice. He also thinks the strategic investments could lead to acquisitions down the road, which isn’t revolutionary, considering this is a corporate venture capital fund. Volkov claims he is in multiple talks with companies across Asia, the U.S. and Europe. With more talent under its umbrella, he says that Group will plan to exit via IPO. Group is launching this fund during a time where people are told to socially isolate, not commiserate over dates and dinners. Volkov thinks that people spending less money in times of crisis could add to some “softness in revenue,” but he finds promise in streaming services. 

“People will spend more time online, in social networks and dating apps, so I expect a spike in user activity in video dating and chatting online,” he said. 

He added: “younger generations are more native with video-first content. New niche players will always appear. But sooner or later there will be a mainstream disruptor, like Tinder was some time ago.” 

To pull on the video thread a bit more, Volkov said that streaming services have gotten interest in Asia and across Europe and the USA. It’s the idea of video broadcasting from one individual to a big group, and he pointed to Meet Group for developing these services in the dating industry, too.

It was the first time I’ve heard of video dating, and since we’re seeing new use cases for literally everything during this time of social isolation, I decided to dig a little deeper. Sure enough, The League, which matches you with people you have on LinkedIn or Facebook, offers video speed dating

According to a press kit from The League, the speed dating option lets users go on three two-minute speed dates every Sunday night. People can also video chat their matches — an option that The League touted was both “safe and cost effective.”

We’ll see if virtual dating catches on as it moves from a cost-effective option to the only opportunity some people have right now. We know at least for now, at least one company has an appetite for it. 

‘This is Your Life in Silicon Valley’: The League founder and CEO Amanda Bradford on modern dating, and whether Bumble is a ‘real’ startup

Welcome to this week’s transcribed edition of This is Your Life in Silicon Valley. We’re running an experiment for Extra Crunch members that puts This is Your Life in Silicon Valley in words – so you can read from wherever you are.

This is your Life in Silicon Valley was originally started by Sunil Rajaraman and Jascha Kaykas-Wolff in 2018. Rajaraman is a serial entrepreneur and writer (Co-Founded, and is currently an EIR at Foundation Capital), Kaykas-Wolff is the current CMO at Mozilla and ran marketing at BitTorrent.

Rajaraman and Kaykas-Wolff started the podcast after a series of blog posts that Sunil wrote for The Bold Italic went viral. The goal of the podcast is to cover issues at the intersection of technology and culture – sharing a different perspective of life in the Bay Area. Their guests include entrepreneurs like Sam Lessin, journalists like Kara Swisher and Mike Isaac, politicians like Mayor Libby Schaaf and local business owners like David White of Flour + Water.

This week’s edition of This is Your Life in Silicon Valley features Amanda Bradford – Founder/CEO of The League. Amanda talks about modern dating, its limitations, its flaws, why ‘The League’ will win. Amanda provides her candid perspective on other dating startups in a can’t-miss portion of the podcast.

Amanda talks about her days at Salesforce and how it influenced her decision to build a dating tech product that focused on data, and funnels. Amanda walks through her own process of finding her current boyfriend on ‘The League’ and how it came down to meeting more people. And that the flaw with most online dating is that people do not meet enough people due to filter bubbles, and lack of open criteria.

Amanda goes in on all of the popular dating sites, including Bumble and others, providing her take on what’s wrong with them. She even dishes on Raya and Tinder – sharing what she believes are how they should be perceived by prospective daters. The fast-response portion of this podcast where we ask Amanda about the various dating sites really raised some eyebrows and got some attention.

We ask Amanda about the incentives of online dating sites, and how in a way they are created to keep members online as long as possible. Amanda provides her perspective on how she addresses this inherent conflict at The League, and how many marriages have been shared among League members to date.

We ask Amanda about AR/VR dating and what the future will look like. Will people actually meet in person in the future? Will it be more like online worlds where we wear headsets and don’t actually interact face to face anymore? The answers may surprise you. We learn how this influences The League’s product roadmap.

The podcast eventually goes into dating stories from audience members – including some pretty wild online dating stories from people who are not as they seem. We picked two audience members at random to talk about their entertaining online dating stories and where they led. The second story really raised eyebrows and got into the notion that people go at great lengths to hide their real identities.

Ultimately, we get at the heart of what online dating is, and what the future holds for it.   If you care about the future of relationships, online dating, data, and what it all means this episode is for you.

For access to the full transcription, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

Sunil Rajaraman: I just want to check, are we recording? Because that’s the most important question. We’re recording, so this is actually a podcast and not just three people talking randomly into microphones.

I’m Sunil Rajaraman, I’m co-host of this podcast, This is Your Life in Silicon Valley, and Jascha Kaykas-Wolff is my co-host, we’ve been doing this for about a year now, we’ve done 30 shows, and we’re pleased today to welcome a very special guest, Jascha.

Jascha Kaykas-Wolff: Amanda.

Amanda Bradford: Hello everyone.

GettyImages 981543806

Amanda Bradford. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Kaykas-Wolff: We’re just going to stare at you and make it uncomfortable.

Bradford: Like Madonna.

Kaykas-Wolff: Yeah, so the kind of backstory and what’s important for everybody that’s in the audience to know is that this podcast is not a pitch for a product, it’s not about a company, it’s about the Bay Area. And the Bay Area is kind of special, but it’s also a little bit fucked up. I think we all kind of understand that, being here.

So what we want to do in the podcast is talk to people who have a very special, unique relationship with the Bay Area, no matter creators that are company builders, that are awesome entrepreneurs, that are just really cool and interesting people, and today we are really, really lucky to have an absolutely amazing entrepreneur, and also pretty heavy hitter in the technology scene. In a very specific and very special category of technology that Sunil really, really likes. The world of dating.

Rajaraman: Yeah, so it’s funny, the backstory to this is, Jascha have both been married, what, long time-

Kaykas-Wolff: Long time.

Rajaraman: And we have this weird fascination with online dating because we see a lot of people going through it, and it’s a baffling world, and so I want to demystify it a bit with Amanda Bradford today, the founder CEO of The League.

Bradford: You guys are like all of the married people looking at the single people in the petri dishes.

Rajaraman: So, I’ve done the thing where we went through it with the single friends who have the app, swiping through on their behalf, so it’s sort of like a weird thing.

Bradford: I know, we’re like a different species, aren’t we?