Well, that’s one way to respond when someone doesn’t like your startup.
After a Stanford student spotted an internship opening at The League, they declared that they were “totally and utterly ashamed that this dating service came out of Stanford,” and asked, “Is it possible to get any more elitist than this? Does it even cross your mind that you are endorsing the idea that wealth, class and privilege determine a person’s character?”
(FYI: We’re not printing the student’s name, since it’s not the name they used on Facebook. We have, however, confirmed that they’re a senior at Stanford.)
Skeptical Facebook comments are nothing new, but Amanda Bradford, The League’s founder and CEO, as well as an alumnus of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, decided to respond, point by point.
While I wouldn’t recommend arguing with college students as a marketing strategy, Bradford’s comments offer an extended defense of The League from the common criticism that it’s elitist. Apparently Bradford was pretty happy with them, since she re-posted them to her own Facebook account. The League even shared them with its users (while reassuring them that Bradford was in the office when she wrote her comments and that there was “no booze involved”).
Here’s how she takes on the charge of elitism:
Is it possible that Stanford admissions standards have gone down?
Let’s start with the definition of elitist: rule by the people who have the most wealth and status in a society, the most successful or powerful group of people. I would postulate that anything that is NOT 100% merit-based and requires one to have money to be part of said group is more elitist than The League. Higher Education in the United States is a great example of this. For instance, I was admitted to Dartmouth based on academic merit. However, I could not afford to go because they did not offer me financial aid and I didn’t want to take on massive debt. Therefore, in my eyes Dartmouth, and any school that does not offer academic scholarships, in general is more elitist than The League. Charity events, Tahoe ski-leases, Tech Conferences like SXSW could all be put in this category – the list goes on and on of things I STILL can’t afford to do even at 31 due to MBA debt coupled with a startup salary, but I think I’ve made my point.
As for whether The League is reinforcing retrograde ideas about wealth and class, Bradford said:
Anyone can apply and join the League regardless of their income, the family they’re from, their profession, or what schools they’ve attended. Just like most people at Stanford are not trust fund kids from Atherton, most people in The League did not come from wealth or expensive private schools. Are there some? Of course. No one is denying the fact that success often breeds success. But the common thread in the League community, as I would guess is the same at your school, is the desire to be successful and having the ambition and work-ethic to make an impact somewhere.
Bradford has previously claimed that the perception that of The League an elitist dating app is a media distortion, and that her goal is really “to build a community where smart, outspoken, high-achieving women are celebrated and encouraged to progress in their career full-time.”
By the way, given the back-and-forth about what should and shouldn’t inspire Stanford students to feel shame, I suppose I should note that a) Stanford is actually more selective than ever, and b) even so, all kinds of not-terribly-smart people got to attend, including me.
Additional reporting by Nitish Kulkarni