Local teacher and friends create drawing app

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Steve Bauk of Winston-Salem and two friends have come up with a mobile app called Picture This that is a drawing and captioning tool. It allows you to draw on a blank screen or on photos such as the one pictured. (Credit: Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A local teacher and two friends have created a drawing and photo editing app for smart phones and tablets that has generated more than 5,000 downloads since July 2.

Steve Bauk of Winston-Salem came up with the idea for Picture This App, believing there is a market for it. So he went to his friends Aaron Goss and Tom Thriveni and asked for help with the project.

“Most computers will have drawing software, but most phones don’t,” Bauk said. “I saw this opportunity to download drawing software on your phone.”

The app is currently free, but its developers plan at some point to add an upgraded version that has more features and would cost an estimated $1 to $3. They also expect to come out with an Android version soon.

“We wanted to get it out and get people downloading it,” Bauk said. “We’re trying to get a big base with the free users. When we release the paid version, we’re hoping to bank on having somewhat of a base of customers.”

With the app, folks can use their finger or a stylus device to draw on photos or a blank canvas, choosing from nine colors. They can also ad captions with color to drawings and photos. Their creations can be shared via email and on Facebook and Twitter. The app is available on the Apple App Store by searching “Picture This App.”

“We made it to be as quick and easy to use as possible,” Bauk said. “There are literally two screens. As soon as you open the app, you’re given a blank drawing screen. So as soon as you open the app, you can start drawing.”

He also said they tried to include enough different features so that Picture This App would appeal to more than one market.

Bauk said there are other apps with tools for drawing and playing games, but he could not find one that was easy enough for people to create a drawing, then share it with others immediately.

“I was less than impressed by the options available,” he said.

He said that a lot of apps on the market focus on drawing to play games.

Bauk wanted to be able to draw and release his drawing on Facebook, Twitter, messaging and email.

Thriveni said that there’s not “a clear leader among the apps that enable users to edit and caption photos.”

He believes that Picture This App is so easy to use and share photos via social media that it could become a market leader.

Goss said people can use Picture This App in a variety of ways from lawyers using it during depositions, construction contractors sketching layouts, to engineers quickly communicating ideas to co-workers.

“Of course, Picture This is also great for parents,” Goss said. “Children enjoy doodling during long car rides. It’s a more interactive experience for them than just watching a movie.”

Bauk has been friends with Goss and Thriveni for quite some time. All of them are natives of Salisbury.

Bauk, 25, graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a minor in entrepreneurship. His great grandfather, L.D. Peeler, developed Cheerwine in 1917, and the company is still a family-owned business. Bauk is a part-time math teacher at Forsyth Country Day in Lewisville and is working on a master’s of science information technology and management degree.

Goss, 30, is a lawyer in Salisbury. He graduated from Catawba College at the age of 16. He received his law degree from Wake Forest University and is a programmer.

Thriveni, 24, attended middle school with Bauk and is also a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead-Cain Scholar. He is currently working in private equity banking for a company in Boston.

The friends started working on Picture This App 11 months ago and developed their product between April and June.

“Creating an app is a lot of work, but it’s easy to get excited and find the energy to get it done when you’re working with a good team,” Goss said.

Bauk said things started off slow the first few months until they switched from a programmer in India to one in Pakistan in April.

“That’s really when things took off,” he said.

The business partners use a designer in Seattle.

Their plans are to keep developing and marketing their product.

“We’re using Facebook primarily right now to market it,” Bauk said.

John Jackson, a mobile analyst for IDC, a marketing research company based in Framingham, Mass., said that the number of apps for Apple and Android products alone is approaching 2 million worldwide.

“You can imagine that these are pretty crowded markets,” Jackson said. “I think the biggest challenge that developers might face is getting discovered and getting discovered in a consistent way.”

He said that the measure of success for an application depends on a developer’s agenda and the cost to develop an app. He said apps that don’t get promoted tend to drift off into oblivion.

The cost to develop some apps can be relatively low, but some can cost as much as $100,000.

Bauk, Goss and Thriveni set aside $10,000 for their app project and have so far spent about half of it.

“If these guys have spent $5,000 in total on this app and gotten a little bit of traction, I think that’s a pretty good start,” Jackson said.

By Fran Daniel/Winston-Salem Journal