Heart is, where the Money is – in Social Startups !!

If you feel awkward in the presence of people and cannot talk to strangers or befriend them; then fear not, because Social Startups are now focusing on developing connections between strangers. No matter where you go, you will always find a group who likes you, at least on the internet!  And if you own a business, then as soon as people come in your radar, they can be told about how close you are and how attractive your products are.

[ad#ga-long]Color Labs Inc., a phone-based social network founded by Bill Nguyen, is trying to liberate social networking from the prison of privacy settings and put it all out in the open. It raised $ 41 million in venture capital, some time back. And this is before the mobile application has even hit the stores. This app makes use of smartphones’ GPS locators and allows users to upload videos and pictures and view what nearby users are doing, without needing to be on their ‘list’. These ad hoc social networks are purely based on the physical proximity of another user, and need not require any privacy settings. Out of the $41 million that Color raised, $25 million is from Sequoia and $9 million from Brain Capital Ventures, and the rest from Silicon Valley Bank. A video demo of their app and details on how to get it is a the end of this post.

This seems a little Big Brother-ish and heartless at the same time. But most people, who are even remotely familiar with each other or complete strangers, are not averse to this idea. A couple of years back even Facebook or Twitter would have been a shocker. The new generation does not care what it’s looking at, as long as it is busy. Note that!

Many social startups are betting on smartphones and funkier networking ideas to increase revenues. Most companies feature photo-sharing at their nucleus. Path Inc, founded by former Facebook Exec Dave Morin, received $8.5 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Index Ventures. Instagram raised $7 million with Benchmark Capital. Yobongo, a mobile communication startup (launched on March 3, 2011), has raised $1.35 million from True Ventures, Freestyle Capital and others.  GroupMe raised $10.6 million, in January.  Investors are sizing up Facebook at above $60 billion and Zynga Inc. to $10 billion.

Facebook has acquired both Snaptu and Beluga. These new spin-offs are a step ahead of Facebook’s feature where it lets its users update their geographical location and find nearby businesses and deals. The company now wants to give tough competition to the new apps. A Facebook spokesperson said, “We’re excited to be the technology that many of the leading mobile apps are using to help people connect with friends through games, music, photos and commerce“.

The phone-ic boom will enable people to share constantly about real life events soon after they take place, or while they are taking place, thus taking social networking and micro-blogging to a whole different level. The phone “provides a platform for developers to build experiences that are more personal in nature“, said Path’s Mr. Morin. He further added, “Now you have the opportunity to create these  experiences at scale“. The question of privacy is the key. There is no way, yet, to ensure the protection of an individual’s privacy on these social settings.

We will have to wait and watch these Social media Experts will come up with, so that this technology is not taken undue advantage of.

Here’s a video showing a demo of the Color app from Color Labs Inc:

Color Demo from Color Labs, Inc. on Vimeo.

Their app is available on the Apple iTunes Store and is coming soon for Android devices.

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Deeptaman Mukherjee

Deeptaman Mukherjee is one of those rare names in the Indian blogosphere, who pursues blogging as his hobby. In the 4 years of his blogging experience, he has worked with some of India's top blogs. He presently blogs at My Portable World and Tech Buzz Online. For any engagements or just to say a Hi, do get in touch with him at Twitter & Facebook. Know more about him, here.

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