Aaron Goss of Salisbury was only 16 years old when he graduated from Catawba College in 1999 with a degree in Information Systems. Since that time, he has earned an MBA and a law degree from Wake Forest University. He is now a practicing attorney at Wallace & Graham law firm, and has had a busy spring. Not only was he married in May, he and two partners have launched their first app.
Goss recently made headlines in his hometown paper as one of three individuals who collaborated to develop a free smartphone app called Picture This. Picture This, now available via the Apple App Store for Apple iOS devices and soon to be released for Android devices, allows users to draw on photos or a blank canvas and share the pictures and drawings they create through Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and multimedia message.
To Goss, the app was a fun idea that he helped bring to life. He credits his friend Steve Bauk of Salisbury, whose parents are also Catawba graduates (Mike Bauk '79 and wife Elizabeth Peeler Bauk '81), with coming up with the idea for the app, and his new friend, Tom Thriveni, whom he met through Bauk and who is also a Salisbury native, with helping to make it a reality.
"We talked about several app ideas and this was one we thought we could do relatively inexpensively. This version of the app is free and will always be free, but we'll be using it as a platform to advertise our 'Pro' version, which will have more colors and features, but also a cost," Goss said.
"Our goal for now is just to encourage use of the free version, which contains everything you need to draw and write on your photos and share your drawings. You can also create designs on a blank screen and send the images out to friends."
Goss said he, Bauk and Thriveni developed their business plan for the app in November, and connected with developers in Pakistan who did the programming for the app with instruction via e-mail, Skype and video conferencing.
Although Picture This is only available for iPhone and iPad at present, Goss and his partners hope to release a version for Android devices soon. "We have a couple of minor bugs left to fix in the Android code. My whole family uses Android phones, including me, so I'm very motivated to get it released. Right now I'm the only one in the family with the app because it's in the test version."
Goss doesn't see the idea of developing and launching a software app as incongruous to his profession, rather, he sees it as a way to hone and strengthen his knowledge.
"The liberal arts education I received at Catawba reinforced the value of having knowledge in multiple fields. In addition, the computer programming major at Catawba provided excellent preparation for me – I learned a little before I attended and a lot after I graduated -- but Catawba's curriculum certainly laid the foundation for me in computer programming.
"When I first learned computer programming, I had a lot of ideas, but didn't know how to translate those ideas into effectively helping others and making money. Earning my MBA taught me how to make money at it and being a lawyer helps me be very specific in negotiating contracts. A lot of people preach specialization these days, but I believe it remains important to have usable knowledge in multiple fields."
At work at Wallace & Graham, using a smartphone is "expected," Goss said. There, he has worked on cases recovering retirement pension and medical benefits for people whose employers have cut them, cases against payday lenders charging illegal interest rates, cases brought on behalf of the United States to recover for fraudulent billing, and most recently, cases wherein he represents North Carolinians who live near what are called CAFOs or "Confined Animal Feeding Operations," as well as victims of online predatory lending. He is enthusiastic when he talks about the legal battles he wages.
"I really love my legal career and I intend to continue devoting most of my time to it. Right now, I'm representing neighbors of hog factories, many of whom live on family property that has been in their family for over a hundred years. We recently filed pre-lawsuit proceedings on behalf of over 600 people who live near CAFOs."
Goss has made several prolonged trips to the eastern part of the State for these cases and has experienced the nuisance firsthand. He noted that in Duplin County, there are more hogs than people. The residents, many of whom predate the hog factories, have to deal with swarms of flies and strong odors from hog waste and rotting hogs.
In his preparation for the lawsuits, he created a mapping computer program for the law firm that shows where the clients are in relation to the hog farms. "Computers are vital for handling large volumes of data, and every case's data set presents new and interesting challenges."
Goss has found a niche for his computer skills in the world of class-action suits and mass litigation. "It's interesting how the Internet creates this wonderful opportunity for businesses to automate their basic processes and make contacts across borders. Unfortunately, it allows criminals and scam artists to do the same thing. We see a lot of people violating our state's predatory lending laws on a massive scale. Many use specially written computer programs to keep track of their so-called 'customers.' You have to understand those computer programs in order to really figure out what they're doing."
In one predatory lending case, Goss wrote a computer program to analyze the defendants' database of hundreds of thousands of transactions and figure out how much each of the scheme's victims were entitled to recover.
In another case, brought on behalf of the United States, he wrote a program to analyze 10 years' worth of the entire nation's Medicare transactions for fraud. "It would be nearly impossible to tackle that without computers. Being able to say, 'Just give me the data files' can make the lawsuit discovery process a lot easier."
This young man also produces and bottles his own barbecue sauce for friends and family. His recent wedding featured not only a whole-hog main course flavored with his Goss Sauce barbecue sauce, but also nine kegs of homebrewed beer that included seven different varieties. "The beer proved popular," Goss beamed, adding, "We had 45 gallons of my home-brewed beer and it ran out just as the time for our reception did." The commemorative pint glasses were all printed with "Goss Brewing Company," but Goss says that starting a brewery is a dream that will have to wait awhile.
Although practicing law is very much in his future, Goss plans to keep his hand in computer programming and development of new software applications. He will do so with knowledge and understanding born of his experience, education, and training.
"The new generation has a reputation for being very tech savvy, but most people – young or old – don't really understand what's going on behind the scenes. Computer programming is a profitable field and will continue to be a profitable field. Computers are remarkably flexible machines, and it's vital to understand them in order to use their full potential. There's still a lot of room for new computer programs to be written."
For more information about the Picture This app, visit www.picthisapp.com, Twitter via @picthisapp, or Facebook via Picture This App.
Picture This App