NYT Article Asks Whether It’s a Good Idea for Investors to Pump Tens of Millions of Dollars Into Startups With Half-Baked Poorly-Conceived Ideas

Claire Cain Miller, writing for the NYT:

Two of Color’s photo-sharing competitors, Instagram and PicPlz, exemplify the lean start-up ethos. They started with $500,000 and $350,000, respectively, and teams of just a few people. As they have introduced successful products and attracted users, they have slowly raised more money and hired engineers.

Color, meanwhile, spent $350,000 to buy the Web address color.com, and an additional $75,000 to buy colour.com. It rents a cavernous office in downtown Palo Alto, where 38 employees work in a space with room for 160, amid beanbag chairs, tents for napping and a hand-built half-pipe skateboard ramp.

The difference between Instagram/PicPlz and Color isn’t just how much money they needed to get going. It’s that Instagram and PicPlz are easily understood, clearly appealing concepts. It’s easy to see what they do, and why one might want to use them. Color is just a mess. That they raised a ludicrous sum of money proves only that fools and their money are soon parted.

So what is Color going to do? Double down on the crazy:

Mr. Nguyen said the company had taken the criticism to heart and charted a new course. He fired Color’s president, Peter Pham, and its engineers are building a new version of the app to be released later this summer.

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. He plans to build applications that will use data from Facebook to create temporary social networks, say at a conference or sporting event, to help users meet people who grew up in the same town or like the same band.

“It’s literally going to turn your Facebook network from 500 people to 750 million people,” Mr. Nguyen said.

Sounds great.

Monday, 20 June 2011