The hipster dating service OkCupid has ventured from New York to San Francisco to create a freshly staffed outpost of start-up folks in order to brainstorm the site’s next act. They call it OkCupid Labs.
Imposing signage at OkCupid Labs
After OkCupid was bought by IAC’s Match.com for $50 million in February, co-founder and CEO Sam Yagan says he was inspired to try to make corporate entrepreneurship work within the IAC fold.
Figuring out how to make more money for Barry Diller (as Yagan put it himself!) doesn’t sound nearly as sexy or fun as Yagan’s previous projects: dating, the smart study guides SparkNotes or the P2P app eDonkey.
But maybe that’s because the blank slate has yet to be filled in. OkCupid Labs last week opened an office in San Francisco’s SOMA district and allowed me to visit a late afternoon beer-and-brainstorming stand-up session. Then I chatted with Yagan and taped a video about what he’s trying to do.
The idea is to launch lots of projects, giving Labs employees “a safety net with an equity upside,” as Yagan put it. He said he aims to give his team the flexibility to do what it wants and millions of dollars to try to make it happen.
Yagan, who said he “lives” in Chicago and commutes to OkCupid in New York and Match in Dallas, is now adding San Francisco to the list. He reports to IAC CEO Greg Blatt.
Yagan said he’s hired a dozen idea people, most of whom have never worked in online dating (though one guy was at OkCupid competitor Zoosk).
The intent is to help them brainstorm their way into the next big thing, whether it be through a new dating business or (perhaps more likely) a way to bring people together that’s not explicitly dating.
Yagan said he thinks there’s plenty more opportunity in dating, but perhaps not in targeting that same existing audience of online daters that all the services are fighting over. That’s where the new hires come in. “I’ve been doing this for eight years; I’m out of ideas,” Yagan said, half joking.