The Founder of OkCupid Talks Soulmates

Love. It’s in an algorithm. At least according to Sam Yagan, a mathematician who founded OkCupid.

Yagan and I met in the back room. As a serial entrepreneur, who is now investing his resources in Chicago, he gave an hour talk about entrepreneurship to a group of young professionals from Ivy, the social university. I said I appreciated the talk, but I was hoping to speak to him more about love and relationships.

He was agreeable, and I started talking with Yagan about the matters of the heart and how science can prove compatibility.

“Our match percentage is uncannily good,” Yagan said about OkCupid, a dating website which was started by four math majors. It works so that the more questions you answer (which should be about 100), the better your match percentage will lead you to someone compatible.

These dating questions range from asking about religion to asking about your level of cleanliness.

Dating Apps: How to Compete in the Game of Love

“I think each dating product has its own strengths,” Yagan said. He noted that dating apps like Tinder use your social network and attractiveness to find your companion. Later on, Yagan moved on to be the CEO of Match.com, when OkCupid was acquired by Match.com.

Overall, his experience with founding startups has taught him that if a competitor is really good at one aspect of the business, then you cannot compete in the same industry at that level.

“You have to change the rules of the game. You can’t outmatch match.com. Match spends a lot of money on tv advertising,” Yagan divulged, “What OkCupid did was that we said we were going to be free. We started a blog that exposed vulnerabilities of our business. We became the reference brand of online dating because we had this data to share that Match.com didn’t.”

Average Looking and Dating:

During Yagan’s lecture, he emphasized the importance of starting a startup because you are trying to solve a problem.

So, it was only fair to ask him what problem he was solving by founding the dating site, OkCupid, “We believed we could predict compatibility using math.”

I liked that answer. We all have our lists of criteria that we want in our soulmate. And here, Yagan and his team were trying to use numbers instead of physical attractiveness and a meet cutes.

“Most people are average looking. That’s the definition of average,” Yagan went on about dating profiles, “With the match percentage, it gives you a reason to give someone a second chance or a first chance.”

After his dip in the dating apps and website business, Yagan has moved on which he considers similar to the experience of “when your kid goes to college, you know your kids want to leave the house. You don’t want your 26-year-old to live with you.”

With all of this data on love and relationships from his dating website, Yagan said that OkCupid broke barriers like height differences and racial barriers.

We concluded with that one question we have when we are dating – and that is – is there just one person out there for us – do we only have one soulmate?

Yagan smiled and said, “No.”

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