ND Founders Profile #139: These FouNDers Are Bringing Authenticity to Singles with Dating App PreVue

Author: Melanie Lux

Nd Founders 7 11 Luke And Nick Prevue Fb Web (L-R) Luke Grady and Nick Grady, Founders of PreVue


Company Founded: PreVue Year Graduated: 2021
Title: Co-founder & CEO Degree: MS, Management  
Location: Washington, D.C. Residence Hall: NA


Company Founded: PreVue Year Graduated: 2012
Title: Co-founder & COO Degree: BS, Environmental Science
Location: Middleburg, VA Residence Hall: Dillon, Duncan

When Netflix dropped The Tinder Swindler in January 2022, women everywhere literally dropped what they were doing to watch the true crime documentary. In it, a handsome and seemingly wealthy man wooed and won multiple women using the dating app Tinder, defrauding them of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For many women—and men— who use dating apps to meet potential mates, the true crime show was too much like true life. What seems like a harmless way to meet people, has morphed into a scary digital landscape of posing, catfishing, ghosting, and other misrepresentations. Now, two University of Notre Dame graduates, brothers Luke and Nick Grady, have committed themselves to disrupting the online dating scene with a new app called PreVue that focuses on personal authenticity and dating with intention.

What would inspire these self-described military brats, one a former Navy man and the other a former architect/actor, to dive into the startup life in the crowded digital vertical of online dating? The short answer is a strong role model coupled with a market need with a dose of Covid. Let’s start with role model.

Luke and Nick were born into a military family, the U.S. Navy to be exact. From birth through their elementary school years, the brothers and their mother followed their father from one deployment to the next. When they reached middle school age, their father, Admiral Christopher Grady, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the University of Notre Dame’s highest ranking military graduate, made the decision to settle the family in Stafford, Virginia. From then on, he commuted either three-and-a-half hours to Norfolk, Virginia, for sea tours, and one hour to Washington, D.C., every day for shore tours while his family enjoyed a stable, stationary life. Few can argue that Admiral Grady wasn’t the perfect model of love of family.

Nick says the other thing their father did was to “brainwash us for Notre Dame.”

“There was only one school I considered and that was Notre Dame,” he says. “The top tier education, the ability to practice my faith, and serve the country through the Naval ROTC program did it for me.”

While at Notre Dame, Nick played second-chair cello in the university’s symphony orchestra and competed in varsity fencing. He met his future wife, also a fencer, before accepting his naval commission. Over the next ten years, Nick served in three combat deployments on the USS Arleigh Burkes and USS Princeton, worked as a congressional liaison on Capitol Hill, suffered a life-threatening and Navy career-ending injury, before taking a role as a financial intelligence officer with the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Brother Luke replaced the family tradition of heading to Notre Dame after high school with Auburn University. “My parents said, ‘You’re going to go to school for academics.’ At the time, Auburn’s architecture program was ranked seventh in the nation. I also had a partial scholarship for track. I was the first architecture student on the track team, competing in the 110- and 400-meter hurdles and sprint relays when the team needed points.”

After college, Luke moved to Los Angeles to break into acting. To support himself, he worked as a freelance architect, including an eight-year stint with American Stair, where he designed custom stair systems. Five years into his acting gig with national campaigns for companies like Samsung under his belt, the global pandemic struck, and his life was turned upside down.

“In March 2020, I got a call from my agent. She said there wouldn’t be any jobs for the next 14 months so I should probably do something else,” Luke recalls. “That was kind of a shock.”

Casting about for what he should do next, Luke saw that despite Covid shuttering down many aspects of life, Notre Dame was going full steam ahead. “I applied to graduate school on a whim,” he says. “I thought a Master of Science in Management would be good for any of the careers I was considering.”

Although disappointed about leaving his acting career, Luke welcomed taking a break from the dating world. Like other Millennials, he used dating apps to meet potential partners. He soon found out genuine matches can be hard to find online. “I had so many horrible dates,” he moans.

Somewhat reluctantly, he shares an example. “I showed up for a first date at a restaurant on time. I sat there for 15 minutes looking for the person I’d met on the dating app. A woman came in who looked completely different from her profile pictures. I thought it couldn’t be her, but it was.”

He continues, “For the first 30 minutes, she took photos of the food and the restaurant. Online, she was very outgoing, but in-person, all I got were one and two-word answers. Finally, she asked me how much I made. She admitted she couldn’t be with someone who couldn’t buy her a new designer purse a week. And this was one of the good dates I had.”

Luke filed his online dating experiences away as he headed to South Bend for a fresh start, not knowing the seed for a disruptive startup had been planted.

Ironically, the startup came to life because of one of Luke’s classes at Notre Dame. One assignment required students to come up with startup idea and pitch it to the class. Luke came up with a dating app called Pitch, where users would pitch themselves to potential partners using short, unfiltered videos.

“After I pitched my idea, my professor said he wanted to see me after class. I was afraid I’d done something wrong. Instead, he told me, ‘If you don’t do this app, someone else will.’ That’s when I realized this could be a viable company.”

In January 2021, Luke launched his stealth startup company. One of the first actions was to rename it PreVue as the name Pitch would be too expensive to trademark. In July, Nick left his job in Washington, DC, and joined Luke as a co-founder and chief operating officer. Work on their disruptive dating app began in earnest, with a thorough analysis of the markets, gaps and opportunities. The landscape was, well, complicated.

There were the legacy platforms like Match.com and eHarmony. Then there were the apps popular with younger demographics like Bumble, Hinge and Tinder. Because of Covid, these apps were enjoying a surge in popularity and a shift in formats. Nick explains.

“The lockdowns caused a great deal of loneliness and eliminated the traditional opportunities of meeting in person. More people turned to dating apps but were exhausted by the bad behavior and the altered profile photos. Others used the apps for the dopamine boost they got from swiping through endless profiles. It was more of a game than anything. We listened to CEOs of the dating apps talk about the power of video and the apps now allowing people to post videos to their profiles. But that didn’t stop the problem of misrepresentation. Most videos people used were uploaded and heavily doctored.”

He adds, “Yet people still relied on dating apps to meet people. The opportunity was to reintroduce authenticity so people could use the app to find someone to date or marry, with confidence.”

What makes PreVue different from all of the other dating apps is that there are no fabricated, AI-enhanced profiles. Instead, users are required to create short videos of themselves through the app itself. That way, instead of filters, special effects, fish lips and editing, people see and hear the real person, their real gestures and quirks, and go from there.

This, says Luke, is the crux of PreVue. “It forces you to be authentic. It challenges you to be intentional. We’re the only ones using unvarnished video. The person you see on the app is the person you will see on the date.”

Lest this scare people away, PreVue offers short tutorials on how to record an effective video. Tips include filming in a well-lit space so people can see what you look like. Talking about what you’re passionate about and what you’re looking for in a relationship. Lastly, embracing the app.

“Put the real you out there,” says Luke. “We had one girl say, ‘I’m not that attractive; I just want to spend time with someone.’ That had about 45 likes. So much better than the girl who flipped her hair like a super model. Users move on from that.”

PreVue’s thesis has struck a chord with investors. After bootstrapping early on, Luke and Nick have since raised $2 million through family and friends plus two seed rounds totaling $1.3 million through Tiger 21, an invitation only super angel network.

“It can take months to get in front of Tiger 21,” Nick says, “but we got an interview in two weeks and pitched to their members almost immediately. Tiger 21 has been great for capital to grow the company, but also for mentoring and business advice.”

The Gradys have been very intentional in how they grow. They hired a team of talented, experienced marketers and programmers. Instead of a national launch, they decided to launch city by city to control the narrative, monitor user interactions, adjust as necessary, and grow the user base. It proved to be a sound strategy.

Research led us to launch in Boston. It has the largest concentration of colleges and universities and a concentration of young adults frustrated with dating. That was important as we’re targeting people ages 26-35 who are dating with intention. It was also much cheaper to acquire users in Boston in New York,” Nick says.

Launching in Boston on the App Store and Google Play did not disappoint; it was a great proving ground. They thought it would take three months before they had enough traction to expand to their next city, Washington, D.C. But based on the number of downloads, they launched in D.C. just seven weeks later. Next on their list is Baltimore. The plan is to go live in August. As of June 30, the PreVue app had been downloaded more than 16,000 times, 2,000 more than projected.

Says Luke, “We’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

The measured roll-out has had other benefits. Not long after launching in Boston, Luke and Nick identified two big issues. First, men were recording very short, selfie-style videos—one or two seconds—without talking, while others, mostly women, were covering their phone’s camera lens so there was nothing to see.

“We had to respond quickly, or it would have killed our app,” Luke says. “So we created rules for users that said videos had to be 10 to 22 seconds in length. If there wasn’t both audio and video, the post would be pulled. We also had to create algorithms to enforce the rules. We have a great team of developers and got that done in two weeks.”

To keep the PreVue app safe, they are fluid and fast in combatting potential issues, deploying a three-pronged strategy. Artificial intelligence is used to screen for erotica, hate speech and pedophilia, which catches 99 percent of potential scams. The remaining one percent requires human intervention, typically by either Luke or Nick. Finally, PreVue app users can report what they perceive to be inappropriate conduct.

“We are very hands on with the app. But it’s not just about finding scams, we’re also looking for effective videos. As a result, we’re constantly reiterating and improving the user experience,” Luke says.

Although they’ve been live for just five months, both Luke and Nick see PreVue are a little in awe of their success to date and are looking forward to expanding nationally and then globally. As Nick notes, “ It’s amazing how something so simple as an unfiltered video can be so profound. One of our users said, ‘I knew what I was getting into, and I felt safe.’ Our north star metric is to make people more confident by posting in an unfiltered way. Knowing that you’re part of an entire community of people doing the same thing—putting their authentic selves out there—is also a confidence builder.”

PreVue has taken off so quickly the Gradys have little contextual data to work with such as how many people have gotten engaged or married. It’s far too soon for that. What they do know is that they are blowing their projections out of the water. “We are thrilled with the downloads,” Nick says.

Asked what advice they have for others wanting to start a company or launch an app, Nick takes the lead. “You need to understand things you cannot control won’t define you. What defines you are the things you can control. The people you surround yourself with are critical. Be very selective in who you have on your team and with your investors. We’ve been very careful about who we’ve taken money from, making sure they’re part of our mission.”