Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores...

Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores...

Summary: Top Silicon Valley investors have poured $41 million into a startup that has a highly novel mobile app, which tests the boundaries of privacy and social contact in an unique way.

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Last week I was in Palo Alto to meet with serial entrepreneur Bill Nguyen and hear about his remarkable new startup Color, which today launched its iPhone and Android based mobile app.

Color has raised $41 million from a stellar group of investors. This is a huge amount of capital for a seed/Series A round and it shows how much confidence there is in Mr Nguyen and his team.

But this is no ordinary startup. Mr Nguyen is a serial entrepreneur, his most recent venture was LaLa, the cloud-based music service that he sold to Apple for about $80 million.

The Palo Alto offices are behind a nondescript storefront but inside there are several large spaces where rows of developers sit behind huge Apple displays. The basement area is huge and this is where the play areas are, for adults and for children.

We sit on beanbags on a huge half-pipe — skateboards seem to litter the place. Mr Nguyen shows me the application, which has only been tested by about 30 people.

This seems to me to be a very bold move, to release an application like Color, which tests the boundaries of privacy and of social contact in a highly novel way.

How will people use it? Will they use it?

No one knows just yet but it shows the singular focus of Mr Nguyen's vision.

Here is a description of Color: - It acts as a group camera collecting photos and videos from all Color-enabled phones in the same proximity.

- Photos and videos are automatically posted to the cloud.

- Other Color users can see your photos and videos but only if they are physically near you.

- Other Color users don't know who you are, you don't know who they are, all that links you is that you share the same space: a restaurant, a club, a concert, a party, a high street, a hiking trail -- anywhere.

- You can message other color users.

- The connection between you and other Color users gradually goes away over a two week period but can be maintained if you continue to browse their photo/video stream. It's an elastic network.

- The range is roughly about 50 yards but can be extended to as much as half-a mile.

Mr Nguyen said that Color was designed so that people could find out more about their neighbors, their community, people around them. These are not people you know on Twitter or Facebook. You don't need to "follow" anyone, the connection is made automatically.

"I realized that we often don't know much about the people around us. This is a way to help people have a sense of community and to start interacting with each other."

A key goal for Color is to help "capture" a group experience through the "multi-lens" experience of sharing photos.

"There is no privacy setting, every picture taken is shared. This is all part of the post-PC world."

The demo is intriguing. The interface allows you to scroll through a visual diary, with photos and videos grouped according to the day they were taken.

Foremski's Take: It's a fascinating concept and it will be interesting to see just how much people want to connect with strangers, where often the only thing they have in common is that they are in the same location.

There are existing social conventions in place because people don't want to interact with each other, especially in cities and among apartment dwellers. Do I want my next door neighbor in my apartment building looking at my pictures?

I say hello to my neighbors but that's about the most interaction I want with them. Do I want them commenting on my pictures? Getting nosy about my activities?

If I wanted to get to know my neighbors better I would try to make friends with them, but I don't and they don't.

People walking along city streets try to ignore each other. Do they secretly wish they could interact with each other through an application such as Color? We'll find out.

In other situations I can see how Color would be fun to use, such as at a concert where you could view the event from different angles. And it could be a great way for singles to break the ice with each other in clubs and bars.

You could maybe find a decent restaurant by walking by and seeing if any food photos had been taken by Color users -- a good sign. And I'm sure there will be many other interesting uses and experiences enabled by Color.

The most interesting aspect of this application is that it is totally unique and likely to usher in a whole new genre of proximity-based apps.

How Color will be received and used, however, is the $41 million question.

Topics: Start-Ups, Apple, Apps, Cloud, iPhone, Mobility, Privacy, Security

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63 comments
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  • RE: Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores...

    Now there is something I want to see. Not! Who here really wants to see the inside of someone elses pocket? Correct me if Im wrong but dont iPhones spend the majority of the time in a pocket?
    Rick_K
    • RE: Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores..

      @Rick_K
      I would expect the application would have to be running and you would specifically post your pictures and videos to the app. Therefore your comments don't make any sense. I see this app has lots of potential. What about at social events like weddings, family reunions, concerts, hockey games, monster jam, etc. I would would definitely try it.
      bwills80
      • RE: Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores..

        @bwills80
        Hi,
        I agree that the application needs to be running. However, it does not want us to specifically post the pictures to the app. Read this
        " It acts as a group camera collecting photos and videos from all Color-enabled phones in the same proximity.

        - Photos and videos are automatically posted to the cloud.

        - Other Color users can see your photos and videos but only if they are physically near you."
        chandreshvij
    • RE: Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores...

      @Rick_K
      I have to agree with you..the text definitely says "Photos and videos are automatically posted to the cloud."
      this will be the biggest digital collection of pocket lint in the world!
      Either that, or think about how much this is like ChatRoulette! The idea was the same, but with all the perverts in the world, it ruined what should have been a very fun application!
      tech_ed@...
    • Yep

      @Rick_K Good luck with that! I'll stick to my pet rock.
      happyharry_z
    • candid

      @Rick_K Heh. time to start keeping mine in my underwear
      mist42nz
    • RE: Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores..

      @Rick_K
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      yantangseo
  • RE: Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores...

    I am so getting that and taking a picture of my Ass Crack! :-D
    slickjim
    • RE: Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores...

      @Peter Perry - it also puts a new spin on the old joke ("Do you have any naked pictures of your wife?" "No." "Do you want some?" ) Now, everyone around you can have those naked pictures.
      silent E
      • RE: Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores...

        @silent E HAHA!
        slickjim
  • I don't believe people like their neighbours that much?

    Bill has more faith in human nature than most of us. There ought to be shades of grey but in practice this concept will polarise the crowd, with maybe 80% being in the No Thanks camp.
    peter_erskine@...
    • We are still trying to figure out what the comfort zones of people and how

      they want to interact with people around them. With Facebook, we have seen that there was a pent up demand for social interaction using technology, but, I am convinced that the Facebook model is not the only one that will ever work. As a higher percentage carry cell phones and tablets that are always connected, there are many other models that people will like yet to be discovered. Color is a very good first stab. They could end up being acquired by Facebook or Google.
      DonnieBoy
      • RE: Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores..

        @DonnieBoy
        Ha ha ha :) Nice one, I agree with you... However, what surprises me is that I would not like my neighbor to click photos of my intimate moments :-)
        chandreshvij
    • Me TOO - See ya @ &quot;No Thanks Camp&quot;, In person, not on &quot;COLOR&quot;

      @peter_erskine@... <br>I work in IT. I have NO SOCIAL NETWORKS w/ FB, Twitter & all their ilk! If you want to get to know your neighbors - bake a cake, cut some flowers, pick some vegtables out of your garden (I guess thats lost on most of this crowd) etc... and GET OFF YOUR TECHNOLOGICAL A$$ and go meet them in person - shake a hand!
      ncironman
      • RE: Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores..

        @NCIronMan
        Agreed dude :)

        This application has most of the drawbacks particularly with individual privacy... One needs to think about it :D
        chandreshvij
  • meh - it'll turn into people in the same location looking for a quickie.

    I expect that this app will be great for people at the same location that want to hookup. Crotch shots galore I expect.
    alsw
    • I am sure that people doing crotch shots will be banned immediately from

      the service. People that post nude pictures on Facebook are immediately banned. The same will be true here.

      Also, just like people exposing themselves on the street, those doing so with a camera will not be very popular . . .
      DonnieBoy
      • RE: Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores...

        @DonnieBoy
        Then it fails, because you can't opt any photos out. The first time someone forgets and takes a racy pic or gets a prank pulled on them by a friend, they get kicked off.
        jeverettk
      • RE: Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores...

        It all depends on what people are looking for. People have used Bluetooth texting to hookup for quickies in airports for a long time. I agree with the concerns about sexual predators. Some perv on Color hangs out within 50 yards of a schoolyard and can figure out which kids like which hobbies and singers and they can quickly figure out how to entice them into dangerous territory.
        dr-haim@...
  • RE: Color: A fascinating $41m startup with an app that tests social mores...

    i am game, where is the android app? since it has potentially uncensored inputs, it won't be in the main market ( at least not for long).
    j.wolfe@...