By Frances Parrish
Anderson Independent Mail, S.C.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Four friends from South Carolina hope their new storytelling app “Story” is unique enough for people to like it and use it. Unlike social media apps Instagram and Snapchat,”STORY” allows users to share ALL of their photos in a moment, not just one.
Anderson Independent Mail, S.C.
To create a social media app for sharing photos, videos and memories, four young Anderson friends risked their futures.
Ben Crain, 20, Delaney Stewart, 20, Gabriella Lacouture, 20 and Leonardo Savasta, 19, spent the last 328 days working on an app called STORY. Unlike such social media apps as Instagram and Snapchat,STORY allows users to share all of the photos in a moment, not just one.
To see the creation of the app through to fruition, and despite their lack of business experience, three of the friends quit school to work full-time on the app’s development.
“We don’t need to feel intimated by stepping into something we don’t know,” Lacouture said. “Everything we’ve done so far hasn’t come from being book-smart and knowing exactly how we need to go about something, but getting together and having the passion to figure it out.”
In the time it took to develop the app, the friends calculate they’ve lost more than 2,000 hours of sleep between the four of them. But they said it was worth it.
“I had never imagined my life how it is now, working with a social media app,” Crain said. “I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t believe in it myself. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t see the value in what it is.
“It’s a risk. It’s my future. It’s my job. I’m stepping out of college for it, but the potential reward for it outweighs any risk associated with it. I just don’t want to waste my life doing something I’m not passionate about.”
Surrounded by about 200 people, the four friends recently kicked off the launch of the STORY app for iPhones. About 1,200 people downloaded the app on Friday — the first day it became available.
On Jan. 23, Crain woke up from a dream early one morning with a concept for an app. He wrote it down on a sticky note and then called his friend Savasta.
Before they began developing the app, Crain needed to start his own business, which his parents guided him through. But figuring out how to develop the app was between Crain, the group and Google.
“It’s crazy what a simple Google search will teach you,” Crain said.
As they each became more invested in the app, the four friends deemed it unfeasible to attend school at the same time.
They couldn’t pass up the opportunity to develop the app, so most of them left college behind.
Crain, a T.L. Hanna graduate, planned to major in business administration after bridging from Tri-County Technical College to Clemson University. Lacouture, also a T.L. Hanna graduate, was enrolled at Tri-County Tech and planned to major in social work at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Stewart, who knew Crain through mutual friends, was enrolled in the nursing program at Anderson University.
Savasta, also a T.L. Hanna graduate, is the only one still in school. He is enrolled in a coding course at Tri-County Technical College, as his role in the company is to help with the development and mechanics of the app.
For two weeks, Crain and Savasta made calls to different developers until they found one in India named Konstant Info Solutions. Though Konstant codes for the interface and design of the app, the four entrepreneurs needed to design the functionality and vision.
One of the main questions they needed to answer was how to make a new experience for people to tell their stories.
“A ton of social media apps embrace moments, but not memories,” Stewart said. “With Snapchat, they’re there for 24 hours and then gone. With Instagram, you can only upload one picture at a time. But we wanted to embrace the fullness of a memory.”
The group took the carousel concept drawn on a sticky note, and designed every aspect of it from the placement of the back button to how people would comment on a photo.
“We had to figure out every single detail we wanted to the app to do,” Savasta said. “Everyday it’s been communicating with them (the developers) to make sure we’re on the same page.”
They created a page on Kickstarter.com, a way for entrepreneurs to gain initial funding for projects. It can cost up to $70,000 to launch an app such as STORY. The website raised about $15,000. The rest of the funding came from Crain’s parents, who said they believed in the app and their son’s dedication.
Once they had a prototype app, the friends promoted it on existing social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter while about about 100 people beta tested the app.
Though the app just launched, the friends already are thinking of updates. They plan to make the app available for Android users soon and possibly even a website.
“Once we launch, people are under the impression that we just sit back and we just kick our feet back and watch the downloads,” Crain said. “After we launch, that’s when the work really starts.”
The group believes their app will be a success because it adds a missing piece to social media. But they plan to look at other social media like Vine, an app to create videos, for which the popularity declined so their app doesn’t fall into the same trap.
“Everything we’re doing with STORY is definitely a risk, but to an extent we don’t know what’s on the other side of it,” Lacouture said. “But what has kept us going is our immediate and personal reaction when we heard about it.”
At the launch party Friday night, some people were taking photos and uploading them to STORY, many of whom think the app will succeed.
“I think it’s really helpful. You can post more than one photo and not be judged for it,” said Autumn O’Shields, a sophomore at T.L. Hanna. “You can include all of your friends in the photos.”
But to make the risk financially worth it, Crain and his group have plans to reach out to investors once the app gets off the ground. Other options are to sell the app to a bigger company or to make it public, so people can buy stock in it in the future.
“Social media is the language of our culture, and especially with our generation, social media is a part of our lives. I think it’s going to continue to go that way,” Crain said. “With STORY we have to add value to someone’s life and hopefully create a better culture on social media … take steps in removing negativity and creating a culture where people can cherish each other’s experiences.”