A Worcestershire-made app that allows you to draw and share with the world is among just 64 worldwide to be shortlisted in a Microsoft competition.
Didlr was invented by Redditch entrepreneur Rich Holdsworth, after he was inspired by his daughter, and with it he aims to take on the likes of Twitter and Facebook with a social media platform that shares drawings rather than words.
The app, which has already been downloaded 130,000 times, was among 9,000 to enter Microsoft’s Next App Star Challenge, and is among 64 to make the finals of the competition.
The winner will appear in a Windows Phone primetime television advert, which Mr Holdsworth said would be a major first step in monetising the app, which he is currently bankrolling.
Mr Holdsworth, who founded Didlr alongside partner Anne Thomas, said: “I invented this because my little girl was using a graphics tablet and I thought ‘wouldn’t it be great to be able to do this on your phone and share it?’. It all evolved from there.
“Then a few months later I was driving and I thought wouldn’t it be cool if you could do that on a touch screen and share the pictures like a Tweet?”
He added: “One Sunday morning in May I grabbed my computer and started learning how to program it. I started with just being able to draw on screen. My partner Anne Thomas had a go and started to draw.
“She created a great little doodle but when I explained that we couldn’t even save her work yet she became upset at the thought of losing it. We both saw that as a eureka moment – people are attached to their doodles. They are, after all, their creations.”
The app is available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Facebook and you can see people share their sketches – from drawings of landscapes, cars and deers to personal messages – in a similar way to following people on Twitter.
People’s “didls” flow through your screen and they are ranked by followers.
Both Mr Holdsworth and Ms Thomas attended North Bromsgrove High School run Wapple.net, a mobile web development and creative company employing 10 people, but have devoted many hours to getting Didlr off the ground.
It is also currently costing around £2,000 a month to run the servers, but Mr Holdsworth said they plan to monetise by offering companies opportunities to promote their brands through the platform, and he is certain of its demand.
“On Twitter you can’t communicate with people in Japan unless you speak the language, but this is truly universal,” he said.
“People have said to me this could be the next Instagram.”
He added: “It has been downloaded about 130,000 times so far, and it is absolutely worldwide.
“We have done no promotion. We haven’t spent one penny because we don’t have the money, but we are hoping that eventually it will be recognised, and we can start to pay the bills.”
The app is most popular in the UK, US, France and Germany, but also in India and the Phillipines.
However, with Mr Holdsworth and Ms Thomas having returned from London to set up Wapple.net, they are very much focused on the West Midlands.
He said: “We want to be doing business here. We moved out of London and back to the Midlands 10 years ago when we were starting a family.
“We are a high tech business but this is a new area for us and most of our staff.
“But we both grew up here and prefer running a business here. It is great that you can keep your staff for years, unlike the churn in London.”