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Hard to say yet whether this is just another spark from the over-rubbed balloon that is today’s social media startup world, or an actual spark of genius: A new service called Color — which creates social groups and timelines around photos you take on your phone and your current location — has just launched as an iOS and Android app, with an eye-popping $41 million of VC funding in its pocket from the word go.
Backers for the service include such A-list names as Sequoia Capital, Bain Capital and Silicon Valley Bank. According to Tech Crunch, the company is touting the fact that this happens to be the largest amount of money Sequoia has ever invested in a pre-launch site — “more than they gave Google.”
In all, Color has seven founders behind it. They include Bill Nguyen, who (among other things) founded and sold music streaming service Lala to Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Peter Pham, Color’s president, who had been the CEO of BillShrink.com as well as the VP of business development of Photobucket before it was sold to News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media.
What does the app actually do? It proposes to build timelines and groupings of people and events, using photos that a person takes on a mobile handset. A user can also create videos and write comments to further illustrate the images.
Unlike sites like Twitter and Facebook, it doesn’t require you to create social networks to use the service — it relies on sourcing media from other users who are in your immediate vicinity. It does this by using the phone’s own location-finding functions (including GPS, and apparently its microphone to make sound profiles to match up with those of other users).
One can also create groups of other users that do work more like conventional social networks, so that you can keep tabs on other people’s images, even when they are not within 100 feet of you.
Unfortunately, taking up the app at its earliest point has meant that for now I, for one, cannot really see the full potential of how it works: it seems that no one in my corner of London — or social group, such as it is — has yet to download the app.
That could be one of the big downsides for the service in its early days if people get sucked in by the hype (as I have) but then only get met with a couple of bad pictures of themselves as the basis of their timeline (as, unfortunately, I have, too).
One of the positive points that could help the service carve out a niche, though, is that it works without you having to sign up to link in with existing social groups on sites like Facebook or Twitter — although I wouldn’t be surprised if that kind of integration came along eventually and was used as a way of growing the app’s user base.
The app’s creators do not have a business model worked into the launch app, although the write-up in TechCrunch notes that there are plans to sell the service as a white-label offering, or as a platform, to businesses who could use it to push out relevant offers and advertising to users. (Getting an offer for a pair of earplugs when at a loud concert, perhaps?)