Monday, February 13, 2012

CupidRadar: using geolocation to meet singles

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 7:55 AM

cupidradar.jpg
In the early 1990s, Mehrdad Sarlak envisioned a dating service that matched likeminded singles based on their physical location. It was not until smartphones emerged with their geolocation capabilities that Sarlak's vision took shape. He founded CupidRadar.com as a way for singles to exchange messages with potential matches who are within their search parameters—both their physical location and their "search criteria." Sarlak opened up to me about how he thinks technology will shape the dating landscape, what type of "search criteria" is important to singles, and if he has ever used CupidRadar to meet women.

Technology has allowed us to become connected in ways never thought imaginable, but many people argue that our reliance on technology as a communication median has made us less comfortable with face-to-face interactions. While I can understand how people would like the idea of contacting other singles in their area for a spontaneous date, are you worried that many people will feel more comfortable interacting online from an anonymous location before committing to a spontaneous meeting?

Interestingly enough, that is exactly what CupidRadar allows its users to do—communicate anonymously from their location before committing to a spontaneous meeting. Safety and security are foremost in our mind, so CupidRadar never shows our users’ actual locations. Instead we display the rounded off distance between matches. So you can message people through CupidRadar and be confident you’re contacting them from an anonymous location.

It’s important to mention that we’ve developed a quick and convenient CupidRadar messaging protocol so you can contact people without giving them your phone number, email address, or even social-network contact information. You can also message back and forth through CupidRadar with your would-be date from your anonymous location until you decide to meet up or say goodbye. We have also made the rejection process very easy too - simply click “Not Interested” on a user and they will disappear for good from your radars.

Considering that CupidRadar allows singles to meet within minutes of chatting online, the app/site would seem much more suited for casual sex encounters as opposed to people looking for love. Have you considered creating a similar application for markets that are more interested in casual sex: fetishists, swingers, men seeking men?

We absolutely plan to leverage our geo-location technologies to other niche markets and uses in the near future. I need to clarify though that in addition to matching straight users, CupidRadar matches gay singles as well. Users can select this within the “Search Criteria.”

Any future uses we come up with for CupidRadar and its technologies would also need to be consistent with my vision for the type of company I want to run. So for example, applications that would strictly promote casual sexual encounters or help married people stray would not be a part of our future, but many other interesting options do exist and are being looked at.

Mehrdad Sarlak
  • Mehrdad Sarlak
In another ten or twenty years, what new technologies do you predict will revolutionize dating?

In my view, the dating scene in the next 10-20 years will be less formalized, more spontaneous, real-time, and less limited to specific locations (singles events, bars, night clubs etc). The biggest change, I feel, will be that nearly everyone will own a smart phone, making location-based technologies for dating and romance common and pervasive. So your phone will constantly be searching for other compatible singles on your behalf as you go through your day and notifying you both as it makes matches. CupidRadar does this today, but imagine applying this technology in a world where everyone has it.

A few key social and cultural trends will aid this—society’s increasing inclination toward instant gratification and people’s growing comfort with sharing or even broadcasting “private” information about themselves.

On the 50 year horizon, we can expect fundamental changes. With the confluence of advances in neuroscience, genetics, computational power expansion, electronic miniaturization, power storage, and wireless transmission technologies, I can envision a day when people wear embedded chips that transmit and match us with passersby who are ideal for us genetically, intellectually, personally, spiritually, and maybe even down to the minutia of our likes and dislikes, so you could theoretically turn around, say hi to your match, feel the “click,” and know that you’ll be very happy and healthy together for the long haul because by then, science has likely developed the ability to accurately determine our likes and “needs” by decoding our genes and our psyche.

One of the challenges for dating sites and nightclubs is enticing attractive women. In many ways, getting women to use a dating site is analogous to the challenge men face in meeting women and convincing them to go on a date. How have you attracted women to CupidRadar?

Interestingly enough, women signed up on CupidRadar from day one in roughly equal numbers to men. But you’re right—getting women to sign up normally isn’t easy.

To attract a woman, you have to start by making her feel comfortable and confident with your intentions. Thankfully, this fits perfectly with our vision. For example, the nature of our service is a big deal—as I said earlier; CupidRadar is not a hook up service, which the vast majority of women are happy to learn. Instead, we’re all about helping you find love and fulfilling your destiny, as you define it. Our name, logo, colors, security features, highly selective approval process for new users, and zero tolerance for questionable or inappropriate behavior give women confidence in who we are and what we intend to do. So they join.

But, once women are comfortable with you and confident of your intentions, they look for consistency. If you charm a women into going on a date with you, and during the date you suddenly scream at the server over your cold chowder, that’s inconsistent (not to mention insane) and the woman will be gone before your hot chowder shows up. With CupidRadar, we deliver and keep a consistent message—that we offer a terrific service by a well run company intended for good, high integrity people who wish to find a like-minded partner.

When dating sites came out, men who were socially awkward flocked to these sites as a way to contact women from behind a computer screen. However, just as women who spend a lot of time in nightclubs grow a thick skin when it comes to deflecting the endless advances of men, women who spend a lot of time using online dating sites grow callused to the hundreds of messages they receive from men. Just as men must learn effective strategies for approaching women at a club, they also must develop toolkits for separating themselves from the pack and attracting women’s attention online. Do you think technology will ever shift this power balance? Will women ever have to fight to get the attention of men to the same degree men must struggle to get noticed by women?

I don’t see it being changed by technology, because I believe the balance of power in mate selection is a simple function of biology and has essentially been fixed by nature. Why biology? Well, as long as females are and continue to be the primary child bearers, they hold the key to the survival of our species, and therefore, will always necessarily command a higher evolutionary and critical-to-survival value within our species. This is why on average, men have and will continue to struggle more than woman in order to get noticed and selected. The only technology that could change this would be one that makes it common for men to be the child bearers and somehow takes that ability away from women. I don’t see that happening!

CupidRadar allows users to limit the type of singles who can contact them to those who fit specific profile criteria, like height or age. Have you done any statistical breakdowns or noticed any trends in what profile factors matter for men and women? What type of men and women get the most messages?

The trends are interesting. To a point, the more “attractive” a woman is, generally the more messages she receives. Confident, independent, flirty women get a lot of attention from men. Women typically message or reply to guys who are taller and older than they are, but of course, there are always exceptions and these are just basic starting points for women.

For men, those with witty, intelligent, confident-sounding profiles that hint at gainful employment tend to do best with women. Men with profiles that are cocky, insincere, rude, or overly romantic and sappy, don’t do as well. Men tend to message younger women who are more attractive than they are relatively speaking. They also go after women they have an “in” with. For example, if a woman’s profile says she loves the beach, she’ll be more likely to receive messages from surfers than those scared of the water, because the surfer has an instant point of interest to zero in on her.

In addition to seeing a dater’s profile information, are users able to see each other’s search criteria? On many dating sites, men who are more specific about who they are looking for often do better as this communicates the idea that the man is confident enough to be picky. Do you find this to be true with your users?

I wanted an application that was quick, simple to use, and intuitive. My idea is to leave more for the conversation when you hopefully meet that person. So we set out to keep things simple and “light” and make CupidRadar an electronic version, if you will, of what meeting someone in the real world was like back in the old days—you know, 1990. Back then, when you saw someone in public and were interested, you didn’t approach them knowing answers to their 18 page psychological profile, or their favorite hobbies, likes and dislikes, or their “search criteria.” (That is what made the sober cold approach so challenging!). At best, you knew what your person of interest looked like, and you could guess their age and weight, maybe you could tell if they had kids (baby seat in their car, kids with them, etc), but that would likely be it. So your “approach” on CupidRadar is as simple and light as the real-life approach would have been with the huge difference that unlike on CupidRadar, being rejected in person is a lot more painful… In the real world, many of the people you approach will likely be taken, but you couldn’t have known that ahead of time. With CupidRadar, you can know the people on your radar are at least single, significantly increasing your odds of success!

Do you get to use the site for free? Have you ever messaged a user saying something like: “I run CupidRadar.com and I was just interested in meeting a member and chatting about how you use the site?”

Haha-I love it. Great question! I could use it for free, of course, but I don’t because I firmly believe in keeping my business and personal lives separate. Now about messaging users, I try to personally answer as many of their questions and comments as time permits, but I don’t message them to meet up or date.

Your site lists a number of dating coaches in various cities who all appear to be women. Are you ever worried that these women are communicating what women are looking for in a long-term relationship as opposed to the subconscious factors and tricks that will get women to first notice men and their great personalities? Why not hire a male dating coach who is successful at meeting women?

This reminds me of your question earlier asking how we attract women to join CupidRadar! I guess you can say we do an equally good job of attracting women dating coaches as we do attracting women users!

The truth is we seek out men and women dating coaches equally. While we certainly don’t filter out coaches based on gender, we also don’t pick them to force a gender quota. In each city, we collaborate with the dating coach we feel is the best coach in their city and who best aligns with CupidRadar’s culture. I’m confident we will have men dating coaches in the future. It just hasn’t worked out that way for now.

It’s important to note that our coaches and experts are not hired. All are voluntary collaborators who work with us because they believe in our service, our company, and ultimately, our vision. I happen to believe the same goes for our users!

Checkout CupidRadar at CupidRadar.com

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