When becoming an astronaut seems too lofty a goal, naturally, the next move is study computer science engineering and build a dating website….right?! For Tom Quisel, his aeronautics childhood dream evolved into making waves in the virtual dating world. On the surface, one might not easily find the common denominator between cryptocurrency, health care and OkCupid, but Tom sees it differently. His resume is varied, as his interest in computer sciences has lead him to work in many different arenas – but what has always remained the same is his drive to be a force of positive change and to improve the lives of the people who use his products. Tom explained that at OkCupid, his first job out college, their goal was to “make sure there were good opportunities for people who are not traditional heterosexual daters and it was essential to be inclusive.” With a team of only 15 people, Tom and his coworkers were able to build OkCupid and help change the face of dating. Tom wanted “the quality of people’s dates to improve by creating algorithms to make better matches,” and he was able to achieve that because “with programming, the computer does exactly what you tell it to do!”
After 7 years of improving the virtual dating world, Tom decided it was time for a change and he moved from NYC to Santa Barbara to escape the fast paced, overcrowded city. Although Tom was passionate about this company, he fell victim to the feelings of isolation that many remote workers experience; “My last year with OkCupid I worked remotely. I was lonely, and there weren’t many great coworking options available. I began working at some other coworking spaces but they just didn’t have the community feeling I was looking for. That’s when I decided to try Impact Hub, and I immediately noticed a difference. There is such good energy here and a feeling of community that feels in alignment with my personal values. It is fun to come to work! I just hired someone for my new project, and it was a huge selling point that they would be able to work out of this space!”
It’s been four years since Tom arrived in Santa Barbara and he continues to be driven by a mission to make imperfect systems more perfect. This time he took on the health care system at Evidation Health. Evidation Health is a “technology and services company that helps individuals and the world’s most innovative health care companies understand and influence the everyday behaviors that create better health outcomes.” Tom felt the health care system was in need of innovation, and at Evidation, he was able to put his passion for data science to work. While clinical trials take years to complete due to the time it takes to recruit participants, run the trials, and analyze results – the virtual approach to studies can instead be done in weeks or months, thereby speeding up the pace of medicine.
Tom’s newest project is taking on the uncharted territory of cryptocurrencies. He has now banded together with some former OkCupid coworkers to change the way finance is done by harnessing the powers of cryptocurrency to benefit underprivileged groups. “When people hear cryptocurrency, they easily get the wrong idea, they think of day trading etc. But I am working with a nonprofit group on an app that can have a huge impact and change the way money is exchanged.” For example, an immigrant from the Philippines comes to the US to work. They send money home to their family in the Philippines and they have to pay exorbitant bank fees due to the middlemen who make money on this exchange. “Many families suffer because of it. This is a situation ripe for an automated system and by working with this nonprofit I am able to create a standard for financial exchange.”
But, alas, all work and no play makes Tom a dull boy! Here in Santa Barbara Tom likes to indulge in all that the outdoors have to offer, including hiking, trail-running, mountain biking and paragliding!
His greatest passion? Tom is driven by a mission to make imperfect systems more perfect, in a way that will benefit the world.
Written by Alexis Malatesta