“I used Bitcoin to purchase an OkCupid membership, and thanks to the A-List features, I met my wife!” At one point, this sentence wouldn’t have made much sense. But now, online dating and digital currencies are both disrupting current systems, and thanks to OkCupid, you just might find love with Bitcoin.
Although the primary features are free to use, the online dating platform offers paid memberships to enhance users’ experiences. OkCupid began accepting Bitcoin for these memberships in 2013. Now, millions of users looking for love have the option of using Bitcoin to increase their odds of finding the perfect match.
I visited the OkCupid Headquarters in New York City to meet with Jimena Almendares, Chief Product Officer. We spoke about how OkCupid utilizes new technology, how users can enhance their dating profiles, and how Bitcoin plays a role in all of this!
Emily Braun: I would love to hear more about your role at OkCupid!
Jimena Almendares: At OkCupid, every single person has multiple responsibilities. I’m in charge of product, marketing, and business development. On the product side, it’s thinking about how the product looks in the different platforms, which are the desktop site, the mobile site, and the iPhone & Android apps. On the marketing side, it’s about the brand and how people hear about it. Our traffic is divided between organic traffic and inorganic traffic. Organic is word of mouth, such as people hearing about the site through their friends, and inorganic refers to paid acquisition. I’m also in charge of thinking about our international strategy, as we’re in many different countries.
The final part is business development – working with our partners, with any type of relationships. For instance, we have a partnership with Second City; they have a comedy show called #DateMe in Chicago. And we have different creative partnerships with writers, video producers, song producers, illustrators, and so on. We’re launching a new site soon that has to do with lifestyle & dating, and it involves a large amount of collaboration.
Braun: So obviously, technology is a huge part of OkCupid. How does the company keep up with new developments in the tech world?
Almendares: OkCupid has always been very innovative. Users come to OkCupid because of the functionality. A lot of the product itself is powered through algorithms, such as determining a user’s best matches. There’s a lot that happens on the back end, so users don’t have to do everything manually; there’s basically a computer doing things for them. And we do that all throughout the company – the product is so smart that instead of hiring five people to do something, we can hire one.
In terms of innovation, we’re always pushing the product through new features. We actually launch around five new features every week. We test things a lot. So in that sense, we consider the product to be something alive that we’re trying to make better every single week. For example, we just launched a redesign of the desktop site. It’s not about just having a good product that people use; it’s about how it can be better than what currently exists. What are the new things that we want to bring to it?
Braun: Is anything big going to happen with online dating in the next few years? Do you see the industry heading a certain way?
Almendares: On one hand, it’s simplicity. Obviously, there’s many more users that use mobile. How can you make something that, instead of typing a lot of stuff, you can tap instead? But on the other hand, it’s depth. And what I mean by that… For some apps, it’s a lot about the first photo. It’s more related to whether or not someone is attractive. But we have all types of users that use OkCupid for many different reasons. So having a deeper profile where you can almost hear the person’s voice is something that we’re interested in. We don’t want dating to just become, “Do you have a hot Instagram photo?” It’s also about having something quirky or interesting about yourself that will make people want to go on a date with you. We need to give users simplicity, but at the same time, we don’t want to make it a simple product that ultimately becomes just a photo.
Braun: Can you tell me any of the top tips for finding success on OkCupid?
Almendares: I think, ultimately, when you have someone that is plain vanilla, this person will receive less messages than an edgier person. It’s just better to really represent yourself well and stand out with whatever thing makes you special, rather than trying to blend in and be an average cool person. Whenever we see profiles that are not very special, that’s an opportunity for people to talk more about themselves or show photos where they’re doing something really different.
Braun: I understand that OkCupid has a paid feature called A-List. Do you think that a user could benefit through A-List? What are the advantages?
Almendares: There’s a lot of functionality related to A-List. The biggest one is that you’re able to see who likes you. So you can start a conversation where you know that the other person is into you. You’re also able to browse anonymously. If you’re not a paid user, people will see that you’ve been visiting them. Say you have a crush on someone, and you’re visiting them often – they would see that. With A-List, you can choose not to be seen. There’s also unlimited message storage, as well as the ability to change your username; sometimes, people will put a random username, and they wish they could change it.
We also have another feature that just came out. It’s called Incognito, and it’s also paid. Sometimes, people don’t want to be seen in an app, either because of their job or their life situation. What we’re offering is, for a similar price to A-List, you are only seen by the people that you message or that you like. So in that case, you can be as anonymous as you want and still connect with the people that you’re interested in.
Braun: It’s really excited that users can pay for memberships with Bitcoin. What influenced the decision for OkCupid to start accepting Bitcoin as a payment method?
Almendares: Feedback from our users. There were users that were really excited about Bitcoin and were asking us if we could accept it as payment. So at first, they would just send us a payment to a Bitcoin wallet, and we would manually give them A-List. And then, at some point, we had enough users wanting to pay with Bitcoin that we couldn’t just continue doing it manually. We signed up with Coinbase and made it an automatic process. But yeah, it all started just from user feedback. We’ve always been quite nerdy and tech-y, so we were willing to try it out. And then we had enough users that we thought, well, let’s actually keep it as a permanent payment option.
Braun: A lot has changed with Bitcoin since OkCupid started accepting it in 2013, such as awareness and the exchange rate… have you seen any changes with Bitcoin usage on OkCupid?
Almendares: It has stayed fairly stable. I think that the hype is lower in the news, potentially. For us, it represents a small percentage of the transactions, and we don’t see a decrease in usage – but it’s just not accelerating as fast as a means of payment.
Braun: Do you personally use Bitcoin?
Almendares: I don’t. I’ve considered it, but I think I’m concerned about the timing. There was a point, obviously, when the rate was just extremely high, and it’s been decreasing ever since. Perhaps I should try it. Do you use it?
Braun: Yes, I do! Do you remember the first time that you heard about Bitcoin? Was it through OkCupid?
Almendares: No, it was much before that. I studied at MIT, and there was already a lot of hype about Bitcoin back in the day. I have a few friends who have Bitcoin exchange companies, so it’s something that I’ve been very familiar with since a while ago. I thought it was cool that OkCupid was one of the first big companies that started accepting it as a payment. I mean, yeah, Bitcoin was in the news so much even before 2013.
Braun: What was your first impression of it?
Almendares: I’m always open to new things! It reminded me of when people were talking about Esperanto. Esperanto was supposed to be a language that anyone could learn, a language that could potentially replace specific languages, so that everyone could communicate around the world. There’s still a lot that needs to evolve in terms of money transactions, such as the institutions that handle the transactions and the related costs. Bitcoin, or an iteration of it, still has a way to go. But it’s exciting when new things come around! I mean, that’s evolution.
Braun: Do you think Bitcoin has a future? Or at least, something similar?
Almendares: Yes. I think there’s a lot of room for simplifications of the payment process, either after a purchase or between people. So definitely! I mean, it’s one of the industries that hasn’t changed that much over time. And I do a lot of international transfers, so I’ve seen different companies come along to try to fix the issues, but I think that it’s still in its infancy. Whether it’s Bitcoin or something similar, I think at some point, hopefully very soon in the future, we will not even need to carry cash anymore. I don’t even carry cash now! Do you?
Braun: No, not usually. There are a lot of cash-only business in Brooklyn, though, so sometimes I wish that I did!
Almendares: I always have to go to an ATM [at cash-only businesses]. And that’s why I’ve noticed that I no longer carry cash. I’ve recently been to places where I’m like, “I can’t believe that they only accept cash!”
– Emily Braun