Swipe right (wing): Former Trump aides seek singles for Thiel-backed dating app
At a hip basement bar in Washington’s Shaw neighborhood on a recent Thursday night, singles from conservative nonprofits, GOP Capitol Hill offices and right-leaning media groups sipped craft cocktails from an open bar under the glow of neon lights, part of an effort to build buzz and a user base for a new dating app created by former Trump White House staffers and backed by tech billionaire Peter Thiel.
There is a long list of failed or now-defunct dating apps aimed at conservatives that have popped up in recent years, including Righter, Donald Dater, TrumpSingles, Patrio and Conservatives Only.
Co-founders John McEntee, who was a personal aide to former President Trump and then director of the White House presidential personnel office, and Daniel Huff, a Trump appointee in the Department of Housing and Urban Development and also a White House adviser, say The Right Stuff will be different.
“What we’re doing has really not been done before. No one has built a high quality, properly funded app with a dedicated team,” Huff said in an interview.
“It’s an important, underserved market,” Huff said. “Liberals own the education, media corporations, and we can’t let them control our personal relationships.”
Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal who was also the first outside investor in Facebook, has put around $1.5 million in the dating app, one of many of his investments on the political right. He’s also invested in Rumble, an alternative to YouTube that is popular among conservatives, and this election cycle he’s poured millions into supporting Trump-endorsed GOP Senate candidates J.D. Vance in Ohio and Blake Masters in Arizona.
Some singles at the Shaw event were optimistic The Right Stuff — free from the “woke” features on other platforms — will help them find right-wing love without a barrage of users telling Trump voters, conservatives or unvaccinated people to swipe left.
Jordan Lamb, an intern at a conservative nonprofit, said that she and her friends trudge through a dozen or more liberal men before finding even one conservative on popular dating apps.
“I know a lot of young conservatives who are feeling very frustrated using dating apps because the apps don’t reflect their values,” Lamb said. “They forced you to have pronouns or BLM tags, or vaccinated/unvaccinated … so I think there’s definitely a big need for it.”
But others at the event were skeptical. Some attendees worried whether enough conservative women would sign up for the app, wondered whether people beyond the Beltway would join and pointed out that some major dating apps already allow users to target conservative matches. Bumble, for example, allows users to filter potential matches based on political views, but that advanced feature requires a subscription.
With Thiel’s backing, The Right Stuff aims for high quality technologically. Southern California-based app developer and creative agency Naked Development is building the app.
And unlike other dating apps that were for Trump supporters only or encouraged long-term relationships over one-night stands, The Right Stuff is taking a broader approach.
“It’s for all types of conservatives and all types of dating,” Huff said.
Right now, the app is only catering to heterosexual relationships — its “core constituency,” as Huff said — but it is looking at expanding to same-sex relationships “down the road.”
And despite the existence of other right-wing dating apps, Huff said that there is a vast market for a conservative dating company.
Other dating platforms have found success catering to those looking for a partner with certain core values. Numerous businesses cater to Jewish or Christian singles, for instance.
“Politics has become almost a religion for some people,” Huff said.
He countered concerns about the app being successful outside D.C. by arguing that those who consider right-wing views a must in a romantic partner can find it harder in other large metropolitan areas, without the conservative social scene that flourishes on Capitol Hill, in think tank circles and elsewhere.
“You want to be able to find the pool of conservatives. And if you’re just relying on people you run into, statistically the chances aren’t great,” Huff said.
The app also has an advantage that others did not: founders and backers with deep connections across the right-wing political ecosystem.
Ryann McEnany, sister of former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, has been sliding into conservative women’s DMs on social media to recruit them to join the app. She also headed to the conservative Turning Point USA’s Young Women’s Leadership Summit in Texas last month, a gathering of thousands of young women, to recruit for The Right Stuff.
A video promotion for the app played at that conference showed dramatizations of bad dates: a man who didn’t want kids due to worries about climate change; a man who didn’t pay for the date because he brought the wrong fanny pack; a man who showed up for a date on a bicycle and invited her to sit on the handlebars on the way to their outing.
“Start going out with normal guys,” the promo closed.
The developers know that recruiting enough women to the app will be key to its success, which is reflected in its business model.
It will use a premium subscription model with a basic free version available for everyone, but a subscription available for men. Women, however, won’t have to pay.
“Obviously, this whole thing doesn’t work if you don’t have the proper ratios,” Huff said.
The Right Stuff team also hopes that new features set it apart from competitors. One feature with the working name “Posted Date” lets users advertise potential dates to encourage in-person interaction.
“Basically, ‘Oh, I got two tickets to a ballgame, who wants to go?’ And then, you know, multiple people can say, ‘Hey, I’m interested,’ and then you wind up in picking one,” Huff said. “It’s an idea of getting people out on fun dates, instead of just sitting on the phone, you know, messaging back and forth.”
“Those other platforms are playing catch up. We’re going ahead. We’re making something even better,” Huff said.