Stan Voit: Local man has big dreams for app he created

Mar. 11, 2013 @ 12:02 AM

 

There are around a million applications — commonly called apps — available to be downloaded to a tablet or smartphone. Robin Aletras has one in mind. He hopes it will become one of those success stories so he can share the profits with a local ministry and, frankly, make some money for himself.

It’s called Last to Pass (Fellowship With Friends). It’s similar to Words with Friends, only offers a variety of themes and skills. His first version has the Bible as a theme, and because lots of names in the Bible are tough to spell, he sees it as both educational as well as challenging.

Aletras, who lives in Gatlinburg with his wife and children, is a self-described computer geek, and his geekiness was evident even in high school. He got involved in computers at the age of 12, just as they were gaining in  popularity.

He grew up in Gatlinburg, moving there at age 5 with his mother from New York to live with his aunt and uncle. He attended Pi Beta Phi and then Gatlinburg-Pittman, but left high school in the 11th grade to attend community college while getting his GED.

In 1994 he began a design business, creating for Geoff Wolpert’s Park Grill and Peddler one of the area’s first business websites. As more people got into that game, he got into graphic design, producing fliers and other desktop publishing products.

Today he operates BlueWeb Media, which includes a number of Internet-related services. And he has partnered with an app design firm to create Last to Pass. That’s only a start. To get from that to a finished product to be downloaded is like turning oil into gasoline.

Aletras says the skills and software needed to create an app are beyond his skill set. Those who create them need experts as partners to actually make them. That takes a lot of money. So Aletras has announced his app on a website called KickStarter, where people like him can tell the world about what they have in mind and who will create it, and then seek pledges and donations to help make it a reality.

Aletras is trying to raise $23,000. It costs around $30 an hour for technicians to make an app, and it takes 92 days to do it. He needs donations, not investors. Those who donate, or pledge, have the satisfaction of helping someone reach his goal, but with no share of the proceeds. He already has raised around $10,000.

“It’s all or nothing,” he said. “If you don’t make the goal, nobody pays anything. And if you do make the goal, those who invest get the satisfaction and reward of helping some out.”

A successful app, like Angry Birds or Words with Friends, can be worth millions to the creator. Angry Birds, for example, has been downloaded a billion times. Many who create success apps sell them for millions of dollars.

That’s Aletras’ goal, but as an ordained minister — he was called to the ministry about 20 years ago after he got in some trouble — he wanted his initial app to help a local religious organization. He has pledged 30 percent of the proceeds of the first incarnation of Last to Pass to Gwen Ford and her I Believe Ministries, based in Sevier County.

And will his idea be successful? He thinks it could be.

“The app is a twist on Words with Friends, a Scrabble like game. Ours is unique in that instead of two players you have two to eight players and different themed word packs. The Christian word pack will encourage people to use their Bible as reference to make biblical words. Also the Last To Pass feature gets rid of swapping tiles and passing your turn. If you can’t make a word, you are eliminated.”

KickStarter, as you can imagine, is a crowded website with hundreds of people posting their ideas in hopes of getting enough money to produce one and get rich. Aletras is part of the mass. He has received some money pledges, but needs more. Visit www.LastToPass.com to find a link to his app.

By the way, his wife Jessica, a G-P graduate, uses only Mac products. Aletras doesn’t, but only because, he says, the software he needs is more compatible with Microsoft products. He does, however, use an iPhone.

No matter. If his app gets produced and takes off, he can buy any computer he wants.

— Stan Voit is editor of The Mountain Press. His column appears each Sunday. He can be reached at 428-0748, ext. 217, or e-mail to svoit@themountainpress.com. Twitter: @stanvoit.SNbS