Cora Kyler is the Founder and CEO of SOON.
Co-founded with Alena Titova in 2021, SOON prioritizes in-person dates, high quality matches & getting users on these dates quickly.
After pursuing her PhD in Mathematical Logic at UC Berkeley, Cora left to launch SOON. Additionally acting as CTO, her work in mathematics is reflected in SOON’s groundbreaking algorithm that considers a broader and more equitable range of data to drive matches.
Cora is fascinated by the idea of using technology, modeling and affective thinking to measure something ineffable–like compatibility–in relatively quantitative ways. She is dedicated to distilling problems to their fundamental pieces, solving the question of how we get clean data in the subject matter of romantic interest.
Born and raised in Virginia to a single mother, Cora attended the University of Virginia at age 16, studying Classics & Math before spending time at Harvard to study Theology, Greek & Arabic. She continued her studies in History & Math at the University of Cambridge, and began her PhD in Mathematical Logic before ultimately leaving to launch SOON. She currently resides in San Francisco with Alena, her co-founder.
Where did the idea for SOON come from?
It started with my co-founder Alena and I being lonely in our respective grad programs during covid, siloed in our apartments with very little interaction. She came to visit me in SF and we were both complaining about the dating app experience. We went out with some of my friends and they had fared no better using the apps, so we went home and mocked something up. We thought “ok, it would be cool to build it but it’s ok if no one uses it”. It felt like a project in which we could direct our frustrations towards dating apps to produce something useful, it wasn’t really about getting users and building a company at the start. It grew from there.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up early and I’m a big journaler first thing in the morning. If there’s a frenzy of potentially useful things that I can do in a day it is not always obvious which are the most pragmatic, so I dump them out into a journal and prioritize. Which of these tasks are aspirational and which are practical? I don’t let the aspirational things that I’d love to do with my day take over and acknowledge that my job is the success of the company.
I simplify by eating exactly the same thing every day and eliminating a lot of choice. I make so many choices at work every day that are pretty crucial in this early phase of the company, so I like to eliminate choices in other areas of life. There is a baseline simplicity to my lifestyle–most things have a lot of structure so I can dump my bandwidth into the rest.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I think when you come up with an idea, actually executing it can bring a lot of fear. To bring an idea to life starts with remembering just how much has been done in pursuit of that idea already–you just have to keep going. Not that the hard part is over, but it is the case that you have done so much work already to get to that idea. Additionally, knowing that you have to talk your ideas out a bit–my ideas used to be an echo chamber in my head. Now I use people for feedback as opposed to a whiteboard and rely on my network.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I find the lip service that has been paid to the metaverse kind of funny because I’m not sure what the tipping point was. In any case, there are myriad communities that gather exclusively digitally. For example, I was part of a reading group at Berkeley that was across a number of universities. It is in a way exciting that there are not just online resources but online communities (equipped with tools) that feel socially verdant. People have made these spaces very accommodating and I think pouring resources into them is far from a bad idea, although it’s the antithesis of what I’m building myself.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am a very curious person and I think that there are a lot of other fields that we can pull from in our work. In my personal work I take a lot from physics. I enjoy making games and use some of those skills in my work as well. I pull from other ecosystems and incorporate them into SOON to see where it goes.
As a team we take inspiration from any number of things. It makes us more productive in a way because there is a background energy driven by a general curiosity about people and the world and new solutions. That is our internal culture and it is very productive.
What advice would you give your younger self?
During my PhD I really beat myself up about having weeks at a time where I didn’t put pen to paper, but I just thought and thought. All of that thinking was not in vain even if it felt that way at the time. Just because I wasn’t writing articles or making sure that I put things out there to the world it was all very important. I feel very tenderly for that person, I see her as a productive person now.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
There are some people who agree with me on this but not en masse – I do think that our cities are getting unlivable at a rate that is really shocking. The spectre of all of these recent disasters is turning mass populated areas into really serious infrastructure failures and it is happening now, not later.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I try to make a conscious effort to not forget my body – when you are doing a cerebral job it is really easy to forget that you are only as functional as your physical body and brain are, and it is really humbling. Something I try to do is take really good physical care of myself. It feels like a chore often but it is always in service of being creative and bringing the best version of myself to other people and constantly performing at a high level.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I’m a very thoughtful emailer, I treat emails like letters. When I am socially exhausted and don’t want to connect over zoom constantly, I will dump all the information into a written format via email and it is actually very useful to do that. People can then think about the information in their own time and have a functioning article to look back to. I also find that my emails function as an antidote to imposter syndrome–I know for a fact that I’m not succeeding solely because of the gregariousness I can perform in a meeting, but that I concretely figured something out. Write everything down.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There is a lot of pressure to grow a company quickly and that involves growing a team quickly. It is easy to forget that you’ve been doing the job yourself the whole time and you know your product the very best. Growing a team fast can actually kill you. At a certain point I forgot what a jack of all trades my co-founder and I are and felt like we couldn’t be the people to do every job. But we were able to grow a baseline amount of confidence quickly, and remembered that it is better to have team members who are passionate about the work and what we are accomplishing than solely being technically proficient. We’ve been taking our time now to grow our team.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Honestly I think there are too many business ideas out there already. I have some friends who are in the climate disaster preparedness arena and they have got some cool ideas that are actually synergistic with SOON. Anything to do with getting people to connect and think together about what is coming and what we will have to face would be interesting for sure.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Really comfortable shoes. Pretty self explanatory. I got a pair of Hokas and I wear them every day. They encourage me to go on walks.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Apple Notes – I write everything down there. Apple notes crushes it. For me it is where I can record my stream of consciousness and where I write everything out.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Rilke – Letters to a Young Poet – I quote it all the time. I always buy it for friends. It was very important to me, but I can’t necessarily say that everyone will react well to it. People who feel lonely should read it. It will teach you how to fall in love with your pure isolation.
What is your favorite quote?
“And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perhaps bewildered and embarrassed, perhaps also protesting. But don’t give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers – perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life.” – Letters to a Young Poet, Letter 9, Rainer Maria Rilke
- Start your day by putting things down on paper. There is no better way to get things out of your head and prioritize.
- Learn how to write a really good and all-encompassing e-mail. It is so easy to forget things on a call the moment it is over – a comprehensive email affords people something to look back on.
- Simplify as much of your life as you can to leave bandwidth for the many decisions you will have to make in your work day.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.