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Powerhouse CEO, Ariel Charytan, On Love, Tech, And Success

OKCupid CEO, Ariel Charytan, shares how to succeed in life, love, and discusses OKCupid's new market expansion.

Courtesy of Ariel Charytan

My Happiness Hypothesis study found that modern dating is creating the dating paradox effect: it’s giving off the illusion of many choices while making it harder to find viable options. Is technology driving dating, sex, and emotion? How is AI shaping dating? I had a chance to explore some of this phenomena with thought leader, Ariel Charytan, Chief Executive Officer at OkCupid. OKCupid was started by mathematicians, used cutting edge data science (when it wasn’t as cool as it is now) and now a leader in the dating space worldwide.

Your career is so fascinating and inspiring. Tell us about your career trajectory?

Over the past two decades, I’ve learned that the fundamental thing we collect in life isn’t money or titles, but experiences. I always allow my interests and passions to guide my journey instead of following an orchestrated master plan.

What attracts me to new roles is the opportunity to experience something new — something unique that I didn’t try in previous positions. I think of a career as a life experience that can provide interesting encounters and opportunities to improve the lives of those around us, instead of just a means to an end.

Because there really is no end destination, only a journey through time. 

Everyone wants to be happy with what they do and create each day. I have sought and been fortunate to have always worked on products that improve people’s lives. For me, OkCupid is the pinnacle of that — it’s hard to imagine something more important than helping people find love.

How did you get started in the relationship industry? What got you interested in the industry?

Human relationships are one of the most fascinating topics to study. In today’s world, what is more essential to our future as a society than fostering unique connections between people?

While most businesses seek out customers for life, at OkCupid we only win when our users no longer need us. Every day I get to spend my time thinking about how we can create more love in the world and stronger relationships; our product only works when we’re creating meaningful connections. At OkCupid we take all the information people provide — your preferences, interests, values — and then give you the tools to find the people you’re most compatible with. 

There are now more ways to connect with people than ever before, yet people feel isolated and lonely.

We try to combat that by presenting and celebrating people’s authentic selves. This is ultimately what creates real connections and relationships. It’s a unique thing we do at OkCupid, and it’s a privilege to be a part of it. 

What amazing projects can we expect to see next?

OkCupid has always been a platform that allows people to be their true selves. Now, we are growing rapidly and we’re on a mission to bring love to singles all around the world. Perhaps most exciting is that we can be a part of cultural changes taking place in countries with long histories of arranged marriages. 

With OkCupid, people are finally able to exercise their right to choose their own partner. For example, we recently launched our first overseas campaign in India focused on personal choice and have seen massive success in that market.  

In places like India, we are continuing to match people on what matters most to them and specific to their culture. I’m proud to be able to give people that opportunity because it’s something everyone deserves. 

I have been predicting a greater use of AI in dating apps for years, now. It plays a role in things that we use every day, i.e., Google and Facebook, yet it scares people. What in your opinion is the future of dating?

The future of dating is going to look a lot like the origin of OkCupid — why we were founded, and what we still stand for today. We have never simply connected people by their age and location. Instead, we match people on shared beliefs and values through thousands of personalized questions. Artificial intelligence has helped us continue to ensure that we always showing daters the people they would actually want to meet beyond simple attraction. And the beauty of our approach is that it can easily be adapted to users around the world. 

We’re doing that by creating personalized experiences for all our users. We understand there are cultural, political, religious and social differences in each country. That’s why we tailor our questions for daters to fit each individual local market, and currently offer localized questions in more than 30 countries around the world…and that number is continuing to grow. 

As people turn to technology to find relationships, daters are teaching our algorithms what is most important to them- no different than to how Amazon and Netflix recommend books or shows.

Algorithms need to adapt as people’s behaviors and preferences continuously change, and similar to human intelligence, our algorithm continues to learn and improve over time for each individual dater. To feed our algorithm, we ask daters to answer thousands of possible questions, on everything from climate change, to meditation, to voting in elections.

It’s through artificial intelligence that we have been able to help so many people find their perfect match faster. So, the future of dating will be a lot like what we have done for the past 15 years, which is better to predict human relationship compatibility. It works so well that we are the most mentioned dating app in The New York Times Wedding section. Looking ahead, we’ll continue to see AI playing a significant role in matching people on what matters to them. 

How do you create work-life balance? 

It’s important to spend your time doing what you enjoy with the company you enjoy, regardless if it’s a weekday or weekend.

If you truly enjoy the work you are doing, it should be a form of energy and joy.

I don’t think of my job as something “I have to do,” I think of it as something “I get to do.” It is so important to find satisfaction and excitement in what you choose to do in life. 

Can you share some tips on how to cultivate it in our own lives?

Set time aside that is completely dedicated to personal time, whether that is with family, friends, or simply recharging alone. Be consistent and uncompromising about those moments, because it’s so important to find what refuels you and dedicate time to that outside of work. 

I set aside time to take a break from electronics and other technologies.

We are constantly connected, and it takes an intentional force to set boundaries and focus on ourselves. I shut off all devices for one full day each week. 

What would you tell your younger self?

When we’re young and constantly surrounded by friends, it’s easy to assume those social circles will be a constant for the rest of your life. Adulthood and reality is a bit different, though. As our lives evolve and people go in different directions, maintaining those friendships becomes more challenging and takes active work. The value of these relationships, however, compounds over time, so I would tell my younger self, and every young person, to continue to invest in the relationships of your youth because they will pay dividends as you get older.

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