Swiped Out

Daniel Russo ’15 was tired of dating apps that perpetuated the hookup culture. So he created one that brings people together based on personality, not looks.

Jessica Anastasio

Weather forecast calls for a rainy weekend. What are you going to do?

That’s one of about 350 questions you’ll be prompted to answer before you can see what your match looks like when using Vyve, a dating app co-founded by business administration alumnus Daniel Russo.

A year out of college, Russo ’15 and his friends found they were struggling to have meaningful conversations with people they met using other dating apps like Tinder and Bumble.

“The one problem we found with every single dating app is that you don’t talk. You get matched and the person says ‘hello,’ you say ‘hello,’ they say ‘what’s up?’ You say ‘not much.’ It’s the same conversation every single time!” says Russo. “Honestly, I felt like I couldn’t be myself on there.”

As someone who had dozens of ideas for apps over the years, Russo said the idea for a dating app that puts personality first came to him as a “brain blast,” and he immediately knew it was worth pursuing.

He partnered with longtime friend Chris Moskal, an electrical engineer, and the two brought on graphic designer Juliana Scialabba. After coding much of the app themselves, Russo and Moskal brought on a team of developers to finish building the app and together, they fleshed out features they hoped would help Vyve rise above other dating apps that perpetuate the hookup culture.

“Everyone labels millennials as, ‘Oh they want the hookup culture’—but I don’t know, I’m a millennial and I don’t really have any friends that want that,” says Russo. “There are people you’d match with on other apps and they just want to meet up. We want to keep away all of the ‘creepers’—anyone that you wouldn’t want at your Thanksgiving dinner pretty much.”

While it took several years to design and code—the project has been largely self-funded along with the help of a small investment—the free app launched in 2017 and has had over 10,000 downloads to date.

With the motto “More to ‘Love at First Sight,’” Vyve focuses on supporting real connections based on personality, in a safe environment.

Russo says safety was of major importance, so every user must complete an application for approval before they can use the app. Once approved, users fill out basic preferences describing what they are looking for, including things such as age range, gender, ethnicity, and religious preference. (Continue reading below.)

Curious how it works? Here’s a quick primer on the Let’s Vyve process.

Location settings are also set—a person can choose global mode or restrict parameters within a few miles. Russo says they purposefully leave out physical attributes such as height or hair color. After preferences are set, users are then prompted to answer ice breaker questions before being matched with other people with similar preferences.

“We use the ice breakers as a way of starting up the conversation differently every time,” Russo says.

What sets Vyve apart from other dating apps is that the faces and personal information of other users are blurred when you first match. Then, based on the rate of messaging between two people—such as the amount and length of messages being exchanged—the face of each user begins to unblur. After a real connection has been established, the two users can agree to fully reveal their photos.

If they’ve “Vyved” with one another, they are stored in each other’s “MyFive,” where each user keeps their five strongest matches.

As they continue to chat, more information, such as additional photos and links to other social media accounts, begins to unblur as well. The last thing to unlock is the log where the answers to all questions they’ve been prompted with are stored.

“It gives you a little bit more fuel that you can use—you get to know your match even better,” he says. “It can happen in as little as an hour or three days—it all depends on how much you’re talking.”

If you feel you’re no longer Vyving with one match, you can remove them from your MyFive—that person then has the option to “Revyve” once a day to try and save the relationship.

“There are times when someone may disconnect from you due to a misunderstanding, or because you were away from your phone for too long,” he says. “So, it gives you a chance to explain and respark the relationship.”

Russo says the reaction to the app has been overwhelmingly positive—a high rating of 4.3 from users puts Vyve’s rating above both Tinder and Bumble in the iTunes App Store.

In the near future, the app will become available to Android devices. The team plans to soon expand to be more inclusive of non-English speaking users, and they hope to one day offer more personalized matchmaking experiences such as Vyve-sponsored dates and meet ups.

Russo says stories are slowly beginning to come in about people finding success using the app. After contacting two users who left the community to gauge why they deleted the app, Russo says he was told the two no longer needed the app after Vyving with one another.

“As long as you buy in to the no judgment, you can go along with it and maybe learn about yourself. You’re saying stuff that you wouldn’t usually say,” says Russo. “And I honestly hope that when people are on Vyve, they learn about themselves and in that process, they find someone who loves them for them.”

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