Founders of Armenian PicsArt app willing to make it the Instagram of art lovers everywhere

Forbes – PicsArt, a digital art app that lets users create drawings, paintings and edit photos has grown a sizable user base of more than 65 million monthly active users, about half as big as Pinterest.

Now, PicsArt’s first VP of product Argam DerHartunian is focused on a road map intended to ensure the app is simple enough for anyone to use, but nuanced enough that it still appeals to long-time users.

Many people discover the app through Instagram, where PicsArt users often share their creations. PicsArt’s focus on co-creation and public sharing helps set it apart from the wildly popular Instagram, whose 400 million monthly active users typically follow friends, celebrities and influencers. PicsArt and Instagram users can both post comments with their creations, but PicsArt gives users a much wider range of image editing and drawing tools, such as text bubbles and clipart, than what the Facebook-owned app offers.

“Not everyone comes to PicsArt knowing what to do and how and we will remove that barrier to creation,” DerHartunian said in an email. “PicsArt’s goal is to foster a place where everyone is creative. This means that everyone, regardless of artistic skill level, has the tools necessary to create, collaborate and share their work.”

What can users expect from DerHartunian? More image filters, new and simpler editing tools and a revamped onboarding process that will help people create sooner. He also wants to boost consumption on the app by making it easier for users to find other creators who spark their interest. The startup is constantly working to become better at curating content, as a large portion of users spend more time creating art on the app than consuming it. The app’s home screen, for example, shows users buckets of selected images, such as “daily inspiration” and “joined this week.”

Most importantly, DerHartunian says, he wants to promote collaboration among users. The app currently lets users invite Facebook friends to edit their photos asynchronously and share a video of the drawing process.

“There’s an untapped potential for people to create even more compelling and powerful images, things that will go viral, things that will inspire, if they’re creating with the help of others,” he said.

The app shows users step-by-step how different pieces were created, which has made the app popular in some schools. Musee D’Orsey in Paris, France, for example, of its own volition, incorporated the app into its children’s education program.

DerHartunian officially joined PicsArt in late October. He most recently served as VP of product at Vevo overseeing its mobile, web and TV apps. He helped the online music video service achieve a significant boost in registration and engagement, especially among teens, launched manually curated TV channels and led growth in Germany, Poland and Mexico. Before Vevo, he was a senior product manager at Electronic Arts  and cofounded AddVal Solutions, a consulting firm.

“Argam has built an engaging consumer experience at Vevo that has captured the attention of people worldwide,” PicsArt’s CEO, Hovhannes Avoyan said in a statement. “Similarly, PicsArt aims to become an experience for any creative-minded person in the world. With Argam’s help, we will continue to make great strides to get there.”

PicsArt has been downloaded roughly 250 million times. “The amount of engagement we have and the passion of our users drew me into PicsArt, as well as Hovhannes’ passion for the company,” DerHartunian said in a phone interview. “It fills the white space that’s outside of the selfie or sharing a news article, something more purpose-based, creative-based.”

“PicsArt has the potential to become a household name,” he added.

PicsArt, which was founded in Armenia, first launched on Android in 2012 and on iOS in 2014. The company was profitable when it first started raising funding. The app makes revenue from a combination of advertisements and sponsored contests, as well as through in-app purchases such as special font and image packages.

Avoyan said he was inspired to build the app after repeatedly seeing his young daughter, who loves to draw, resort to sketching on napkins at restaurants. His goal was to create a community that was welcoming to anyone.

PicsArt was among the top 10 most popular free apps in Apple’s App Store in 2014 and 2015. This year, it has remained among the top 20 U.S. photo and video apps by downloads, according to app analytics firm App Annie.

“If you ask people, ‘Do you need another social network?’ they’ll probably say no,” DerHartunian said. “The opportunity really is defining how people consume creative works of art and making it something that people don’t even know that they want.”

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