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Posts Tagged ‘Bill Nguyen’

The Rise of the Niche Social Network

April 19th, 2012 04:31 admin View Comments

The latest crop of social networking startups strutting their stuff at the DEMO Spring 2012 conference today don’t dare confront Facebook head on. Instead, companies like Ticlr.com, Tradesparq.com, and Max My Play are looking to fill – or create – niches to complement the 800-million-member gorilla in the room.

Aside from sports, creative twists on old-fashioned buying and selling seemed to hold the most promise to the starry-eyed startups. Ticlr.com, for example, showed how it hoped to leverage Facebook to build community around commerce, while Tradesparq.com tapped into professional social network LinkedIn to help companies find suppliers in China.

Ticlr.com is an example of how Facebook is evolving into a network of networks, a trend that could someday remove any sense of a website having a beginning and end. The Winchester, Mass.-based company depends on getting permission to use members’ Facebook contacts in order to make it easy for them to send gifts purchased on Ticlr.com. The gifts can be big to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries or small to break the ice when trying to get a first date. The gift site would compete with other gifting sites such as Wrapp, KangoGift and Giftly.

Tradesparq.com reflects a social networking trend in which sites leverage who a person knows as a way to add credibility to potential business deals. Without LinkedIn, Tradesparq.com would be just another business-to-business site. With the professional network, the company can use a buyer’s LinkedIn contacts to put him in touch with people who know the Chinese supplier bidding on a product request.

Bill Nguyen, founder and chief executive of social app maker Color Labs, told DEMO attendees that Tradesparq.com fits into an emerging category of sites called vendor relationship management. “That’s the ability of buyers to manage their connections and relationships with vendors, so it’s a turning around of the CRM [customer relationship management] concept.”

Sports is a Business, Too

Max My Play, based in Costa Mesa, Calif., is another example of a vertical social network trying to fill a need that Facebook doesn’t touch. This time it’s sports recruiting. Scheduled to launch out of beta in the summer, the company’s site, ItsMyPlay.com, is designed to help amateur athletes promote themselves to coaches and scouts. Athletes can post video, stats, resume and other information, as well as communicate with interested coaches and teams.

These three sites have done a good job of identifying niches. But like other niche-oriented social networks, they’re likely to face problems holding on to their users. Niche players often manage to initially attract a devoted audience, only to lose them later to a larger competitor that moves into the market. That’s because the community usually moves to where there are more people. And Facebook has 800 million people.

Source: The Rise of the Niche Social Network

2012 Predictions: Richard MacManus

December 21st, 2011 12:25 admin View Comments

ReadWriteWeb is all about what’s next on the Web, so our team has been busy making their predictions for next year. Before I began writing my own, I took a look back at my predictions 12 months ago. Predictably, I had mixed success. But that’s a lot of the fun with predictions. Why not make some bold bets on the future, because that’s in the spirit of Silicon Valley. Plus it makes you think about what you wish will happen. Maybe, just maybe, a startup or bigco will make it happen for you.

This year I have 5 more predictions (and a bonus silly one). Leave a comment with your own predictions, to see if you can out-seer me!

First here’s a brief summary of how I did with my predictions last year, marking myself up to 1 point for each:

  • 1: Flipboard becomes the breakout news reading app of 2011. While Flipboard continued to expand, it was slow to move onto other platforms. The iPhone app didn’t appear until December. 1/2 point.
  • 2: eBooks will hit 20% market penetration by the end of 2011. The figure was 9.03% at the end of 2010, according to the Association of American Publishers. I got this one spot on, as AAP’s most recent stats put the figure at 20.76%. 1 point.
  • 3: Internet of Cars will be the surprise hit of the year. The Internet of Things continued to slowly build and car manufacturers like Ford iterated on their Internet functionality. While I’m tempted to claim Google’s driverless car prototype as a win, the reality is that my bullish prediction didn’t happen. 0 points.
  • 4: Internet TV tips and gets huge consumer uptake. Hmmm, Google TV bombed and Apple TV remains a hobby… for now. Maybe in 2012 it will tip? I’ll give myself 1/2 point for the success of TV-focused social apps.
  • 5: A major pop music star will do something amazing with web technologies, that blows open the online music scene. While it didn’t come from a major current pop star, like Lady Gaga or Kanye West, I believe that we saw a really amazing use of web technologies in Bjork’s 2011 album, Biophilia. The album was an iOS app, with an interactive app for each song. OK, it didn’t blow open the music scene. But it’s a sign of the future. 1/2 point.

Result: 2.5/5. I’m a bit disappointed in that. But as I said at the start, it’s all in good fun. So here I go again, with 5 more predictions!

2012 Predictions

1. This year’s Best BigCo, Amazon.com, will launch a media-focused social network. Kind of like what MySpace used to be. It will be to a place for you to socialize around your reading, listening and viewing activities.

2. Twitter’s usage will begin to wane, due to squeezing from Facebook and Google+. Maybe then Twitter will sell to Apple. Heck, predictions are no place for maybes. I predict Apple will buy Twitter!

3. Google’s Chrome browser will make dramatic inroads into Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, coming within 10-15% of it by the end of 2012. This will be due to mainstream people finally abandoning IE in droves. By the end of 2012, Chrome will have close to 30% of the market according to Net Applications (it currently has 17.6%) and IE will have just over 40% (it currently has 52.6%).

4. Facebook will have initial teething problems with its Timeline, but by end of 2012 it will be seen as a triumph – as millions of people begin to use Facebook over 2012 as their digital memory bank. I don’t know if that’s a brave (new world?) prediction or not, but right now there are a lot of skeptics about Timeline. So I’m firmly betting on Timeline being a big success for Facebook in 2012.

5. Music acts will start to truly tap into the power of the iTunes LP. Currently most iTunes LP releases are simply a PDF file with a bonus video if you’re lucky. I predict that in 2012 many more bands and musicians will include multimedia in their digital albums and the braver ones will try to emulate Bjork and create stunning “app albums”. This is a bit of a re-hash of my music prediction last year, but I really want to see widespread innovation in the digital album!

6. Bonus prediction: Bill Nguyen of Color fame will convince Silicon Valley VCs to part with $100 million, to fund an amazing new type of smart TV. It will have 4D, Internet telepathy and a revolutionary new “smell this” feature. RWW Editor-in-Chief Richard MacManus will thoughtfully blog that it may be “the next Google.” The TV will flop before the ink is dry on the last VC cheque. A few months later, the futuristic telly will be re-branded as a way to consume Facebook frictionless sharing “on the big screen.”

[p.s. I love Bill's spirit, I really do. I hope he does try for another New New Thing in 2012!]

Those are my predictions, now let me know yours :)

Source: 2012 Predictions: Richard MacManus

Color Me Badd

June 20th, 2011 06:42 admin View Comments

Come inside, take off your coat
I’ll make you feel at home
Now let’s pour a glass of wine
‘Cause now we’re all alone.

The opening lines of Color Me Badd’s seminal “I Wanna Sex You Up” sort of perfectly encapsulates Color — the company/photo-sharing app, not the band. After one of the most-hyped launches in recent memory, it was supposed to be the app that changed proximity-based sharing. Instead, it was an app used to share a lot of drinks, often with yourself or one other person.

Unfortunately, also like the song, it was all foreplay. No sex. And now even Color is admitting that.

In an interview with The New York Times over the weekend, Color founder Bill Nguyen essentially admits defeat — at least with regard to their eponymous first app. This follows our story from last week that co-founder Peter Pham had left the company. While we had heard conflicting stories about the exit, Nguyen doesn’t beat around the bush, telling NYT that he was fired.

Whether Pham was a fall guy or not doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that Color has to figure out what the hell they’re doing now. NYT suggests they know:

Mr. Nguyen outlined an ambitious plan to compete with Apple, Google and Facebook by tying together group messaging, recommendations and local search, all while making money through advertising.

If you thought the initial Color idea was crazy, this must sound absolutely insane. Talk about setting a high bar! Color will apparently release such an app later this summer. The original photo-sharing idea? That has likely been totally scrapped.

But the truth is that I’m not sure that a lot of people thought the original Color idea was all that crazy — they just ran head-first into a poor initial experience. And that was compounded by the almost comically absurd $41 million pre-launch funding round.

Fundamentally, there’s still an interesting concept there. Using the location element baked into all of our smartphones to automatically create implicit networks is something that we’re going to keep seeing startups working on. Others, like Yobongo, are already working in this space as well.

I’m still not convinced that if Color had simply launched a couple weeks earlier, at SXSW, it wouldn’t have been a hit (for that week, at least). Certainly, it would have been the perfect environment to showcase the impressive technology being utilized behind the scenes. Instead, the app ran into the problem where early-adopters were often trying it out with no one around them.

It often looked like ghost town. And because of that, that’s exactly what it became.

Imagine for a second if Foursquare hadn’t launched at SXSW a few years ago. The early-adopters would have booted it up for the first time and not seen any friends checking in around them and would have wondered what the hell the app was good for? Foursquare has since expanded the product to add a lot more value. But remember that at first, there weren’t deals or recommendations — there was just the check-in (and yes, the badges and game element related to it).

Further, while this isn’t a popular sentiment, I actually quite like Color app itself. I completely agree that the initial version had some major UI/UX issues, but the more refined version is actually pretty slick. It’s well-made. It’s fast. It’s not like these guys are a bunch of jackasses who took $41 million and built nothing. So part of me is sad that it’s already time to die.

At the same time, there’s no denying that the $41 million was jaw-dropping. But I also thought the company was being unfairly pre-judged because of that. As Nguyen tells the NYT, they took that much money because they could. He’s had success in the past when he’s had a lot of capital to work with. Had the company raised the $14 million they originally intended to, people would have buzzed, but we would not have seen the same level of backlash.

I’m just not sure how you can hold that against the entrepreneurs. An insane amount of pre-launch funding is on the investors. For whatever reason, Sequoia wanted to put in $25 million by themselves. Maybe Color shouldn’t have accepted all of it, but again, Nguyen has had success doing just that in the past. Kids don’t turn down candy. It just doesn’t happen.

So now we move into the really interesting time for Color. They’re essentially working with a gun against their head. Working on an app, mind you, that’s going to be a Facebook/Apple/Google-killer. Or something.

The mulligans are over. They’ve still (hopefully) got $35 million+ in the bank, but that won’t save them if they flop in a similar manner.

They really need to sex us up this time.

Source: Color Me Badd

An App By Any Other Name …

March 27th, 2011 03:27 admin View Comments

“One of the deep mysteries to me is our logo, the symbol of lust and knowledge, bitten into, all crossed with the colors of the rainbow in the wrong order. You couldn’t dream of a more appropriate logo: lust, knowledge, hope, and anarchy.”

– Apple exec Jean Louis Gassée on the naming of Apple

Why is Color named “Color”?

“A tribute to Apple’s color logo from the Apple II. This computer changed my life when I was seven (also a reference to another company name I’ve used.)

My dad bought one from ComputerCraft run by Billy Ladin in Houston. He was one of the first computer resellers back in 1977. In an odd twist, I meet him in an elevator 15 years later and worked for him. He introduced me to the Web.

Working at Apple was a dream. Color’s name is a tribute to Apple.”

– Bill Nguyen, Color founder on why he chose the name Color

Reading Semil Shah’s post on group messaging this morning, I was struck by the sheer numbers and diversity of the startup names scattered throughout: Yobongo, Disco, SocialCam, SoundCloud, Beluga, GroupMe, Fast Society, Rabbly, Whatsapp, Kik, textPlus, Convore, SMSGupShup, MessageParty, TextSlide, Bump Technologies, Color Labs and so on, all contenders in the saturated mobile social space. Some like MessageParty or textPlus had names that were actually related to their product, but many like Yobongo, Beluga and Disco had only a tenuous connection.

It’s now pretty clear the app ecosystem has gone mainstream: People talk about apps the way they used to talk about music or drugs (“Omg have you guys tried COLOR. Omg you have to try it. Omg we’re on it right now”). And naming your startup has become like naming your band — An intricate dance between a multitude of contributing metaphoric and literal factors. So which approach, picking something random or actually related to what you do, makes more sense?

Chrys Bader@chrysb
Chrys Bader

You can tell it’s a bubble because startups are raising so much money they can actually afford vowels in their domain names.

about 2 hours ago via Twitter for iPhoneRetweetReply

Two notable app launches this week highlighted how exactly an app’s name plays into public perception. The most visible instance of this was the launch of Color, an ubiquitous noun/verb name picked by Bill Nguyen and Peter Pham for their photosharing app with a hefty $41 million in funding.

While initial complaints held that the app was unsearchable in both the Android and iPhone App Store and on Google because of its common name, that problem now seems to have been solved on Google. Perhaps all the inbound links from news and other sites are responsible for the fact that the service is now the eighth result for the word “color”? Color also somehow went from being invisible to being the first app to appear in the Apple App Store under the “color” search term (I’m hearing Android is still having issues).

Color’s name, while initially striking some people as slightly off if only for all its other connotations, is valid in that it accurately describes a core function of the Color Labs product, namely the fact that people are sharing images (a collection of colored pixels) through the app.

The Color guys tell me (and Quora above) that they first came up with the name Color in a tribute to Apple’s original reverse-color logo and then bought the domain name for $350K.  In order to appeal to English speakers in other regions, they also bought the domain name Colour.com and redirected it to Color.com. And yes, this did not stave off complaints.

Alison Tan@alisontan
Alison Tan

The ‘Color’ app isn’t spelt the way I like it… #COLOUR

about 3 hours ago via Twitter for iPhoneRetweetReply

Contrast Color’s name with that of the other hot five-letter app of the moment, Disco. Currently it’s unclear whether Google made the $255K purchase of the domain Disco.com for a Slide-related purpose, or just to have on hand (Google has not given me a straight answer in any of my emails). If the latter is the case then it wouldn’t be the first time Google stockpiled domains (bayareaburritos.com anyone?) for future use.

Whether purposefully acquired or not, the name Disco seems to have a less of a direct relation to its core product than Color. While a disco (nightclub) does bring people together in a sense, the noun has absolutely nothing to do with group messaging, and I think users have already picked up on this distinction.

“This one fits to the product #color, This one doesn’t fit at all #disco,” tweeted Berrehili Réda. “I don’t know, when I first heard about google’s product #disco, I thought they had finally released their music streaming service…”

While it’s possible that the name Disco was already on the drawing board at Slide pre-Google acquisition, if Disco’s makers first chose a vague name and then built out a product for release, then they wouldn’t be alone. Private photo-sharing service Path still called itself Path (at Path.io) back when it was a list-making tool. Guess they thought the Path designation still held after the photo-sharing pivot.

In a seminal post on the subject, VC Rich Barton holds in that making up a new word (like Kleenex or Yobongo) is much more powerful than trying to appropriate a already existing literal word like Color or Disco. But if you’d have to go with an existing word, I’d go with the one that has a strong tie-in to the actual product.

Then again there’s always exceptions. No matter which apocryphal origin story you believe, the word Apple has nothing to do with computers. “If somebody had told me in 1970 that Apple would be the name of the top tech company, I would have laughed to death,” said VC Dani Nofal.

Yes, and if someone had told me in 1990 that someone would name their company Color in homage to that top computer company Apple, I too would have chuckled. Color probably hopes it’ll be laughing all the way to a featured slot in the App Store.

Alexia Tsotsis@alexia
Alexia Tsotsis

Are you there Steve? It’s me, Color.

48 minutes ago via Seesmic DesktopRetweetReply

Source: An App By Any Other Name …

NSFW: Colo(u)r Me Done – I’m Going To Vegas, For Starters

March 26th, 2011 03:52 admin View Comments

“Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard to Las Vegas…”Hunter S. Thompson

31,000 feet on Delta flight 133 from New York to San Francisco, sandwiched between a rotund bald man and a skinny French kid in a checked shirt. I feel like the cheesy filling in an unsettlingly turbulent quiche.

Still, sub-prime conditions or no, I have a column to write: I pop open my laptop and fire up a clean browser window.

As a technology columnist, my craft can be distilled as follows: identify the week’s hot-button topic, Google what other commentators are saying about it, pick a side, argue the opposite, get paid, don’t read the comments. Piece of cake, right?

And this week, the first two of those steps has been made particularly easy. For the past few days, my fellow tech writers have been working themselves into a bubbling froth about the Valley’s latest app du jour: Color.

Some have been shockedshocked! – at the level of investment that Bill Nguyen’s team has received for – what? a social-mobile-photo-sharing trifle – $41m!; Others have rushed to the company’s defense, accusing critics of playa hating and other such ungentlemanly conduct.

So on which side do my sympathies lie?

Uh…

Um..

Oh God.

Ok, let’s not panic. Indecision happens to the best of us. Maybe if I break the story down into its essential elements it might kick-start my brain into forming an opinion.

A new mobile app has launched, having been invented by some smart people with a track record of building successful things. Some rich people have funded it with money they can easily afford to lose. The sum total of their investment is significantly less than Hollywood risks every day on movies like ‘Road Trip IV’ and ‘The Devil Still Wears Prada’. Near-field social networking is a neat and timely idea, and it might possibly break out beyond the twenty seven TechCrunch and Hacker News-reading West Coast hipsters currently embracing it with the same vim and vigour with which they hailed the advent of Instafuckinggram. Still, even best case scenario for Color, cancer remains uncured and new mice remain untrapped.

This isn’t good, this isn’t good at all.

Ok, I’m over-thinking. Just because every fiber of my psychological being is telling me that the launch of Color is less remarkable than my being caught in surprise rainstorm or finding a shiny penny on the street doesn’t mean I can’t fake it. Hell, many’s the time I’ve written 10,000 passable words on the unalloyed thrill of finding a shiny penny on the street. I’ll just tack on a list of easy jokes and call the job a good ‘un.

Being a Brit, I can express an amusing opinion about Color’s name: to act as faux-outraged as I do about ‘Aluminum’, ‘Cilantro’ and ‘Eggplant’. “I mean, it was bad enough when I had to Americanise – sorry, Americanize – my spelling in order to write HTML, now I have to do it to share pictures of my penis with total strangers in a coffee shop.”

Ugh.

(It’s not just me who’s struggling to find humo(u)r in Color. You saw the fake Color.xxx deck that did the rounds — mocking the fact that we’ve seen all of this stuff – mobile! social! sharing! photos! – before. But what should have been a nicely observed piece of satire actually fell flat after the first couple of slides. Why? Because we’ve seen those jokes before too. Even joking about Silicon Valley cliches has become a cliche.)

And yet, and yet…

The truth is, I’m all too aware that my response to Color – or rather my inability to craft one – is really just another symptom of something else. And it’s a problem not with the app, but with me.

This time a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my growing fatigue with the Valley and my proportionally increased enthusiasm at what’s going on elsewhere in the world. I also noted, with no small amount of envy, that Mike has moved to Seattle and Sarah continues to spend much of her time travelling in emerging markets. Yet still, after spending a fun couple of days in New York, here I am: back on a plane to San Francisco, ready to dig even further in to my rut.

Enough.

It’s time for me to hit the road again; to get out of San Francisco – for a while at least – to have some ridiculous adventures and rediscover a world without 941xx zip codes. I leave at the end of next week. My first stop will be Las Vegas where I’ll spend the entire month of April (and a few days of May) staying a single night in each of the 33 hotels on the Vegas strip. In addition to my twice-weekly TechCrunch posts, I’ll be writing a daily diary of the trip, and my inevitable descent into madness, for the mothership Huffington Post.

After Vegas, I’m heading back to London for a couple of weeks to promote my new book. Then I’ll hop back to New York for TechCrunch Disrupt before exploring some of what the rest of the East Coast has to offer.

And after that… I don’t know. Maybe I’ll head back to San Francisco, re-invigorated and ready to jump back into the Silicon Valley biosphere. Or maybe I’ll move to Morocco and live in a wifi-enabled Caidal tent. It’s really too early to tell.

What I do know is that the next few weeks should give me the head-space I need to separate the Valley’s wheat from its chaff and to force myself out of this rut that’s causing me to unfairly lump every new Palo Alto product launch into one homogeneous ball of “meh”.

Who knows, maybe by the time I next land in San Francisco, I’ll be reinvigorated enough to have formed an opinion about Color.

Nah, not really.

I mean, seriously, who gives a shit?

See you in Vegas!

Source: NSFW: Colo(u)r Me Done – I’m Going To Vegas, For Starters

Weekly Wrap-up: Color’s $41 Million Tech, Android Patent Disputes, 20 JavaScript Libraries for Data Viz and More…

March 26th, 2011 03:00 admin View Comments

weekly_wrapup-1.pngOn Thursday we interviewed the much-talked-about CEO of Color, Bill Nguyen, and the story ended up being our top post of the week. Color is the location-based photo-sharing app that raised $41 million before it even launched. That price tag – along with the underwhelming first impression the app makes – left a number of people questioning the sanity of the VCs involved. But Nguyen’s conversation with reporter Mike Melanson made a convincing argument that there may be more to Color than what meets the eye.

After the jump you’ll find more of this week’s top news stories on some of the key trends that are shaping the Web – mobile, location, Internet of Things, real time – plus highlights from our six channels. Read on for more.

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Source: Weekly Wrap-up: Color’s $41 Million Tech, Android Patent Disputes, 20 JavaScript Libraries for Data Viz and More…

The Color Of Money

March 24th, 2011 03:11 admin View Comments

People. Colors. Apps. Cats. Bacon. Organic. Bieber. Mobile. Social. Local. Pivot.

That’s the key slide in a faux-deck making the rounds this morning on the web. The subject of the ridicule? Color, the just-launched social sharing mobile app. Why such animosity towards a new player in a crowded space? Well, there are 41 million reasons.

The most fascinating aspect about Color right now isn’t the product at all, it’s the intense backlash occurring on Twitter and the tech blogosphere. And what’s fascinating about the backlash is that the vast majority it also has nothing to do with the product itself. Instead, it’s about the $41 million in funding that Color raised pre-launch. (For some context, that’s more than the price Yahoo paid for Flickr in 2005.) The general tone of the backlash seems to range from the all-too-predictable “BUBBLE!” to the oddly spiteful “how dare they”. Again, fascinating.

But let’s take a step back for a moment.

Currently, everyone is trying to figure out why and how Color could raise so much money before they even launched. This morning, Business Insider suggested that it was simply one of the VC firms, Bain Capital, paying a crazy amount of money to get their name alongside Sequoia in the deal. Interesting theory. But completely bogus. The truth is that it is Sequoia that put in the vast majority of the money — $25 million of the $41 million to be exact (compared to Bain’s $9 million). Venture Capital Dispatch has the full details on the breakdown.

Also in that report is quite a bit of insight as to why the round ballooned to $41 million — and that’s exactly what happened, it ballooned. Color was all set to take $14 million, Ty McMahan reports. That’s still a ton of money for a service with zero users, but much more reasonable than the inverse of the number. But then Sequoia caught wind of what Color was doing and wanted in. And when Sequoia wants in, they tend to get in. And they apparently wanted in bad.

They told us that every 10 years or so a company and a marketplace and an opportunity come together that’s transformative. They told us, ‘Not since Google have we seen this.’,” McMahan quotes Color co-founder Bill Nguyen as saying. Whether that sounds like total BS to you or not, Sequoia clearly put their money where their mouths are. They doubled the $12.5 million investment they made in Google.

So are they insane?

Well, they’re making a bet. It’s a very big bet, but it’s not as insane of a bet as it may seem on the surface.

Sequoia saw the product and talked to the founders about their vision for it. They also saw Nguyen, a founder who just about everyone you ask will tell you is a genius with excellent foresight. And they saw the rest of the founding team and the extended team, most of which are ex-Apple or ex-Google. As Mathew Ingram implies on GigaOm this morning, it’s very likely that the team alone is worth $41 million to a would-be acquirer (though the true valuation has to be north of $100 million now). Hell, Google offered to buy Path for over $100 million just a few months post-launch for that very reason.

But that’s just one standpoint, and undoubtedly not the exit Sequoia would be looking for here. Instead, they seem to see the concept and technology behind Color as the future of social networking. It’s the biggest step yet towards the next phase of the web, a location-based phase that creates implicit social graphs and blurs the line of online and offline.

On paper, Twitter, and blogs, that again may sound like total BS. A $41 million sham. But think about the larger concept for a second. It’s an idea that could add a truly new layer to the world — and augment reality in a meaningful way. Isn’t that an idea worth betting on?

It may sound creepy now, or stupid. But remember, so did Twitter, Facebook, and just about every other big idea that has come around in the Internet age. A game-changing idea, by its nature, can’t be so obvious. Or else someone would have done it already.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Color will succeed. In fact, such big ideas are more prone to failure. But that’s also why the $41 million is so important. Most startups raise a small amount of money, enough to get off the ground, first. Then they go back for more. And then more. And so on — if they can. Sequoia just gave Color two years worth of time not to have to worry about that. They can simply focus on the product. Again, a bet, but a very entrepreneur-friendly concept (albeit one for a massive stake in the company). Two things seem certain: Color has at least two years to prove themselves and Sequoia felt like they were going to invest down the road anyway.

Scoble’s arguing that first impressions are all that matter and that they’ve already failed at that. But that’s myopic in the bigger picture concept. He’s talking about a first impression that a few thousand people saw yesterday and that a few thousand more will see today and so on. Color will not be a success without tens of millions of users. And the entire concept won’t be without hundreds of millions of users.

At the same time, Color does have a massive chicken-and-egg problem. It’s a service that is only useful when a lot of people around you are using it. If they’re not, it’s absolutely pointless (as I learned alongside most people last night). In that regard, I do agree that Color somewhat flubbed their launch opportunity — they really should have launched this thing at SXSW, it would have been so natural (instead I found myself using Beluga with friends for similar photo-sharing in packs).

But another Scoble point speaks to why it may not matter: the App Store. Getting featured on the App Store is vital for an app’s viral spread — much more so than being featured on any blog. If any app has the right connections to get App Store love, it’s Color. Again, not saying that will ultimately make it a success — the app still has to be good and the execution flawless here — but it’s why the first impression may not matter so much.

So is the appearance of Color and its massive funding proof of Bubble 2.0 or 3.0 or whatever bubble pundits have us in now? In some sense, maybe. But in the truly meaningful sense, no.

This is a company working on a big idea that got a large amount of funding to work on that big idea uninterrupted for a couple of years. Again, it’s a bet — and a big one — but all investments are. Sequoia has the money to make such a bet. And if it fails, it’s on them. Your parents are not going to lose their house because Color got $41 million in funding and blew it. Instead, if that happens, the Sequoia partners may lose a golf lesson. But probably not.

Having said that, there is something to be said for this putting pressure on both the startup community and the investor community. Prices are rising. Color can now afford many more top-tier developers than startup X can. That can be troubling and it will pressure others to raise more money too. The overall affect of that may well end up not being good for the ecosystem short term. But again, big picture. This will succeed or it will fail. And investments will adjust accordingly — in the either direction.

But here’s the most disturbing thing about this story behind the story of Color: the underpinnings of much of the investment-related backlash seem to hinge on the hope that this will fail. Shouldn’t we be rooting for it to succeed? Ultimately, wouldn’t that be better for everyone across the board? The startups, the investors, and the users?

Of course. But these days everyone wants to be the first one to call a failure a failure. Why? Well, it’s a lot easier than predicting a winner.

The bottom line is that we’re not even one day in to the story of Color. And $41 million doesn’t ultimately mean anything other than Sequoia is a believer. Big time.

The real story will be what magic Color can make with that money. It’s in the way that you use it.

Source: The Color Of Money

Color.xxx Pitch Slides Lampoon Tech Bubble Absurdity

March 24th, 2011 03:43 admin View Comments

“Find someone. Take pictures together. Party. Play date. Lunch?” — Color Labs copy

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s official, we’re in a bubble.”Jacques Mattheij

If you’re like most people in the tight-knit incestuous family we’d like to call the tech industry, all of the headlines in this Techmeme cluster on social photo-sharing app Color nabbing $41 million are actually declaring one thing, “Tech Bubble, Now Official.”

While the Color team, helmed by Lala founder Bill Nguyen and BillShrink’s Peter Pham is impressive, the media frenzy surrounding the company’s funding and launch is pretty jarring. I mean WSJ’s “Sequoia To Color Labs: Not Since Google Have We Seen This” headline reads like it’s from the Onion.

Tony Bacigalupo, founder of co-working space New Work City, took this opportunity for parody a bit further and created a fake slide deck for a fake app called Colors.xxx, which hypothetically lets you share your favorite colors with your friends. Tagline: “People. Colors. Apps. Cats. Bacon. Organic. Bieber. Mobile. Social. Local. Pivot.” Highlight: “But will people want to know Ashton’s favorite color?”

Bacigalupo tells me that the slide deck isn’t meant to specifically skewer Color, but rather today’s irrationally exuberant investment climate.

“I don’t have any problem with the app itself or the people behind it, my concern is with the fever pitch of ever increasing investments in companies that have less and less obvious utility,” he says. “Obviously I’m poking fun at Color, but the vast majority of what’s in the slides is not directed at Color at all … People are increasingly feeling that a bubble is forming in the industry.”

In fact Bacigalupo actually likes the Color app itself, “It’s a cool concept, even though it crashed my phone. I’d like to see them build some really cool tech into it — And it’s extremely young, they’re obviously going to do a lot with it, so I’d like to see where it goes.”

And while the slides are hilarious, and all in good fun, what’s more disconcerting than the possibility of a looming tech bubble is the fact that some didn’t get the joke, “A very small number of people thought that we were being serious. I don’t know what to think about that,” Bacigalupo says.

Well, probably that it’s time to party like it’s 1999.

Source: Color.xxx Pitch Slides Lampoon Tech Bubble Absurdity

Color Looks To Reinvent Social Interaction With Its Mobile Photo App (And $41 Million In Funding)

March 23rd, 2011 03:02 admin View Comments

$41 million. From Sequoia Capital, Bain Capital, and Silicon Valley Bank. Pre-launch.

That’s how much a brand new startup called Color has to work with. Your eyebrows should already be raised, and here’s something to keep them fixed there: this is the most money Sequoia has ever invested in a pre-launch startup. Or, as the Color team put it, “That’s more than they gave Google.”

But the founding team goes a long way toward explaining it. Headed by Bill Nguyen — who sold Lala to Apple in late 2009 — the company has attracted a wealth of talent.

So what exactly is Color?

At first glance, it looks like another mobile photo app, like Path, Instagram, or PicPlz. You take snapshots with your mobile phone (the app supports both Android and iOS at launch) and they appear in a stream of photos. And there aren’t even any of those trendy lenses to spruce up your images. Sounds pretty basic, right?

But the beauty of Color stems from what it’s doing differently. Unlike Instagram and Path, there isn’t an explicit friend or following system — you don’t browse through lists of contacts and start following their photo stream. Instead, all social connections in the application are dynamic and established on-the-fly depending on whom you’re hanging out with. And your photos are shared with everyone in the vicinity. In some senses this is the Twitter of photo apps — it’s all public, all the time (I’m ignoring Twitter’s protected tweets, since most people don’t use them). Another way to look at it: it’s almost the complete opposite of Path, which is built around sharing photos with an intimate group of friends.

It’s difficult to explain what Color does with a bullet list of features, so I’ll try painting an example that hopefully demonstrates how it works.

Say you walk into a restaurant with twenty people in it. You sit down at a table with four friends, and start chatting. Then one of your friends pulls out their phone, fires up Color, and takes a snapshot of you and your buddies.

That photo is now public to anyone within around 100 feet of the place it was taken. So if anyone else in the restaurant fires up Color, they’ll see the photograph listed in a stream alongside other photos that have recently been taken in the vicinity.

In a crowded area these streams of photos will get noisy, so Color also has some grouping features. Tell it which four people you’re eating with, and Color will create a temporal group with a stream of just the photos you and your buddies have taken. But here’s the twist: because everything on the service is public, you can also swipe to view other groups, to see what the tables next to you are snapping photos of. And you can always jump to the main stream, which shows a mishmash of photos taken by everyone.

It takes some time to wrap your head around, and my time with the app was limited, so I can’t really vouch for how well it works. But there’s some very interesting technology that’s working behind the scenes to make Color more than just a simple group photo app.

First are the social connections, called you Elastic Network. All of your contacts are presented in a list of thumbnails ordered by how strong your connection is to that user. Whenever Color detects that you’re physically near another user (in other words, that you’re hanging out), your bond on the app gets a little stronger. So when you fire up the app and jump to your list of contacts, you’ll probably see your close friends and family members listed first. But if you don’t see a friend for a long time, they’ll gradually flow down the list, and eventually their photos will fade from color to black-and-white.

These social connections are important because they’re the only way to view a stream of photos beyond those have been taken near you. If you fired up Color in that restaurant example from earlier, you’d only be able to see photos that had been taken by friends and strangers within 100 feet of that restaurant. That is, unless you jump to your social connections. Tap on your best friend’s profile photo, and you’ll then be able to see all of the photos that have recently been taken within 100 feet of them. In other words, Color is trying to give you a way to see everything that’s going on around you, and everything that’s going on around the people you care about.

The Groups feature also makes use of this elastic network. In the restaurant example above, the application would probably already know who you friends are based on your previous interactions, so it can automatically place to in the same group — you wouldn’t have to manually do it yourself.

Color is also making use of every phone sensor it can access. The application was demoed to me in the basement of Color’s office — where there was no cell signal or GPS reception. But the app still managed to work normally, automatically placing the people who were sitting around me in the same group. It does this using a variety of tricks: it uses the camera to check for lighting conditions, and even uses the phone’s microphone to ‘listen’ to the ambient surroundings. If two phones are capturing similar audio, then they’re probably close to each other.

So far I’ve described a compelling and unique photo app with some neat tricks. But how exactly is Color going to make “wheelbarrows of cash”, as Nguyen says?

At this point the company is still very early on, but it eventually plans to offer businesses a self-serve platform for running deals and ads as part of the Color experience (you fire up the app to see the photos being taken around you, and you also see the special of the day, for example).

But that’s just the start. Nguyen has visions of fundamentally changing some aspects of social interaction and local discovery with the app, which he considers part of the so-called Post-PC movement. Using all of the data being collected (remember, the app is taking advantage of all of your phone’s sensors), Color hopes to eventually start recommending nearby points of interest, and maybe even interesting people.

There are still plenty of questions, even about the existing service. This kind of voyeurism — you’re sharing photos with the world and looking at photos from strangers — could take a while to get used to. People may reject it entirely. Or it may be completely addictive. There’s really no way to tell until people start using the app in the wild.

The future is unclear, but promising. And with this much money in the bank and a staff of 27, Color has plenty of time to hone in on what works.

Source: Color Looks To Reinvent Social Interaction With Its Mobile Photo App (And $41 Million In Funding)