We spoke to the woman behind THAT private school dating app to ask her: ‘Why?’
‘We’re not elitist, we’re not trying to be snobby’
When news broke about the new dating-app Toffee, which is exclusively designed for privately educated people, some were quick to form an opinion. A few saw it as a clever idea, while others dismissed it, labelling it "elitist" and "classist."
The founder members get six months free, but normal users have to dish out £4.99 from the App store and a further £4.99 per month for a subscription fee. And if anyone is caught lying about going to a private school? They will be kicked out.
But clearly the criticism hasn't put off the 3,000 founder members already signed up to use the app. And as the numbers grow, it will be ready to fully launch sometime at the end of the month.
Naturally, there are a lot of questions about Toffee and its unique take on online dating. So we spoke to the woman behind the app, Lydia Davis, to ask her why she thought it was a good idea:
Did you go to a private school yourself?
I did. From the age of 8, I was at boarding school because my father was in the army. My family moved all over the world.
So what do you think makes a privately educated person more attracted to another privately educated person over someone who went to a state school?
I think anyone can find interest in anyone. We're all so different and that's the beauty of it, that's why there are so many dating apps out there because no one knows exactly what each person wants or finds attractive.
So it's not that all privately educated people want to date privately educated people, it's more if you have similar background or it was an important part of your life – here they all are in one go.
Some people say that opposites attract which they do, but some people are looking for someone from the same background. In all aspects of life.
Have you found that throughout your life, you gelled more with people who are from a private school background?
I think that's mostly what I knew because I was at boarding school and when I wasn't at boarding school I was where my parents were working at the time. And a lot of British companies try to make sure people's children are educated privately while they might be away for years at a time. So a lot of time, people bond in this way. It definitely didn't create any divide with the people I was friends with.
I'm sure you've heard the criticisms. Your app is being called classist. What do you say to this?
I think because it has "privately educated" in, it's naturally going to bring up some thoughts on that. But I really want people to realise that it's about dating and dating in London is really difficult. There are more single people in London than ever, so obviously we wanted to create a niche group, and there are niche apps all over to help someone find someone they want to fall in love with.
It's more about that. We're not elitist, we're not trying to be snobby, private schooling is just another element for groups of people.
Will there really be a social media background check to see if members went to private school? Is this going to be strictly enforced?
We're trying to trust people as much as we can and members have the options to report anyone if they are a) behaving badly or b) it's brought to our attention that they are lying about that. There's a slight check from our side but also we are hoping that people are being honest about where they did go.
Would there be a problem if someone pretended that they went to private school when they didn't?
I think it's really common on all apps generally for people to sadly lie about themselves. Particularly age and other things. So it's not something we will fully control but we will be looking into that and really hope as much as they can.
If someone messages us and says "Oh I don't know if this person actually did go to private school" we can look into it even more. So it's something we're aware of and I'm sure that as we go along, we will get better at these things.
Do you think this app will be popular in universities?
I hope so. I think dating has changed so much since I was at university, because we didn't have apps. I think it would be popular just because there are so many apps at the moment and I think most people are on two, three or four different apps at a time. There are some general dating apps like Tinder, but there are a few niche ones. If you enjoy Fitness, you join a Fitness app. For us, it's if you've been privately educated. So yeah, I hope it's a hit at universities in a positive way. We really want to stay upbeat and it's not fair to create any social division.
What is your best advice for attracting privately educated people? What are the qualities they look for?
I think it's so diverse. There are so many private schools. I know it's a small percentage of the population but there are thousands of schools. So everyone is going to be different and that's why we have included sliders into our app, when it goes live. They say how adventurous you are, how sporty you are, how important art and culture is, how much you love the city and the country.
We're all so different and we've had different reasons for going there. Some people are there because their parents moved around a lot. Some people are there on bursaries or scholarships. There are just so many reasons and different backgrounds and nationalities. No one is the same. I certainly found that you have to have common ground and your values need to be the same.
We've tried to pad out these profiles, so you've got something to talk about, and not just go on looks. A lot of people swipe on someone because they're attractive, but in person there is chemistry. We've tried to add some prompts – you could say your favourite starter, main course, cheese. With that you could start a conversation quite easily.
A large portion of our society wouldn't have gone to private school but still have similar interests as people who did. Would your app ever cater for them?
That's something we'd like to think about in the future.