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Tualatin High School alumni introduce social media app

Melee offers picture polling for iPhone.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Nick Gellos demonstrates how to navigate the Melee app, Melee, that he and his friend, Kevin MacPherson, released on Feb. 7.Two former Tualatin High School students have entered the world of app-making.

Nick Gellos and Kevin MacPherson's new app, Melee, was released to the general public through the iTunes App Store on Feb. 7. The social media app allows users to create and share polls in which voters click one of up to four pictures to indicate their preference.

Gellos showed off examples, like polling whether people thought Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won a recent Democratic presidential debate. The app can be used for any number of polling purposes, including sports matchups, pop culture, and arts and entertainment.

“It really is … catered toward all kinds of different people, and they can kind of customize it to their liking,” MacPherson said.

Gellos and MacPherson graduated from Tualatin High in 2012, and Gellos now attends Linfield College in McMinnville, while MacPherson goes to Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.

When MacPherson came up with the idea for Melee, he was attending the University of Denver in Colorado.

“For a freshman intro business course, we had to come up with an app idea,” he explained.

MacPherson originally envisioned Melee as a “competitive Instagram,” a version of the social media website where people would vote on others' personal photo uploads. But then he realized he could expand the concept.

“You could use pictures to get people's opinions on worldwide events, you know, or entertainment news,” he said.

MacPherson and Gellos discussed the idea. Both of them were interested, but there was a small problem.

“We don't actually have coding experience,” Gellos admitted. “We had the idea, we had the concept. (But) there was no way that we were going to learn how to code something in a short amount of time. … We probably could have figured out how to do a little game ourselves, like a little Pong game or something. But there was no way we were going to develop a social media app with very, very limited skills.”

Undeterred, the two friends went online, using the website Elance to find a developer who could take on the job of translating their idea into software. They eventually settled on a small group of Indian programmers, whom Gellos said gave them a significantly lower price quote than a lot of American developers.

Coding was more or less complete by November, and they began “beta-testing” Melee with a few dozen friends and relatives.

“They did a great job,” said Gellos of the coders.

The app finally went live during Super Bowl 50, as the Denver Broncos — based, coincidentally, in the city where MacPherson was going to school when he dreamed up Melee — pummeled the Carolina Panthers.

Melee is free to download and you don't even have to be a registered user to vote on a poll shared through the app. Polls can also be shared to Facebook and Twitter, extending its social media reach.

For now, Melee is only available for Apple's mobile devices, such as the iPhone.

“It was a phone that we both had,” Gellos explained. “(Android smartphones), actually, globally are more popular, in terms of there's more Androids than iPhones in the world. In the United States, there's a lot of iPhones, and the majority of my friends are all iPhone users.”

Along with eventually expanding Melee to other platforms, such as Android and Microsoft Windows, Gellos said they have some other ideas for improving the app. Right now, voting options are represented only by pictures, but Gellos said he is hoping to add video compatibility as well.

“We really want to take the product to the next level,” he said.

But for now, Gellos said, after spending more than $10,000 to develop the app, they're pretty much out of money. He said they're hoping to monetize the app eventually by getting users to pay for featured content — but first, Melee will have to catch on with a broader audience.

“We're definitely looking for investors and some funding,” MacPherson said.