Color Labs

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Color Labs
Key people
Bill Nguyen
Geoff Ralston
Douglas Leone (Taken over)
Developer(s)Color Labs, Inc.
Initial releaseMarch 24, 2011; 11 years ago (2011-03-24)[1]
Operating systemiOS 4.2 or later
Size7.7 MB
Available inEnglish
TypeSocial networking software
LicenseFreeware (Taken over)

Color Labs, Inc. was a start-up based in Palo Alto, California. Its main product was the eponymous mobile app for sharing photos through social networking. It allowed people to take photos in addition to viewing other photos also taken in the vicinity. The application grouped photos based on a user's friends so that he or she is more likely to see those that are more relevant.

Following skepticism and rumors from Silicon Valley commentators,[2][3] Color Labs stopped selling the app at the end of 2012.[4]


The group started when co-founders Bill Nguyen and Peter Pham received $41 million in funding. Color was named as a tribute to Apple's color logo from the Apple II. Nguyen described the Apple II as having changed his life when he was seven years old.[5] The domain name was bought in December 2010 for $350,000.[6]

In 2010–2011, Color closed $25 million in funding from Sequoia Capital, $9 million from Bain Capital, and $7 million in venture debt from Silicon Valley Bank.[7] In September 2011, Douglas Leone revealed that Sequoia Capital only invested three days before the scheduled launch of Color.[8]

On March 24, 2011, Color launched its eponymous mobile app in iOS App Store.[1] A week after the launch,[1] Color Labs released an update with significant changes to the iOS App interface—allowing users to see photos from events "Nearby", a "Feed" of relevant photos, and a "History" of groups that users can participate in. Words underneath each icon explaining what they did were also added.

In July 2011, it was reported that Google offered to buy Color for $200 million before their first launch, but Color Labs turned down the deal.[9]

Controversy and demise[edit]

When it launched, the application had around 1 million downloads. By September 2011, the service had a little under 100,000 active users.[10][failed verification] In June 2011, less than three months after the company officially launched, Pham left Color,[11] followed quickly by Chief Product Officer DJ Patil.[12]

In the weeks following Color's initial launch, controversy surrounded the startup's $41 million funding and mixed reviews on the product. The initial launch left users confused with the application's user interface and purpose. Its initial rating in the App Store was 2 out of 5 stars. In an interview with Robert Scoble in April 2011, Pham and Nguyen admitted that Color's launch was a wasted opportunity, sharing: "We threw out a network you don’t know how to get good at…We threw a mountain at people."[13]

In October 2012, media reports indicated that Color's board of directors had voted to shut down the company.[14] Other sources denied that the company was shutting down, but suggested that it was possibly preparing to be acquired by another company or for some other major transformative event.[15]

Reports included that the staff would be sold to Apple for $2 to $7 million.[2][3] In November Color Labs announced that the app would be shut down at the end of 2012.[4]


  1. ^ a b c O'Grady, Jason (March 24, 2011). "Color: New social photo app arrives for iOS". Retrieved December 11, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Gannes, Liz; Paczkowski, John (October 18, 2012). "What's Really Going on With Color: A Small Apple Talent Acquisition". All Things D. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Taylor, Coleen (November 9, 2012). "Sources: Apple Paid $7 Million For Color Labs". Tech Crunch.
  4. ^ a b Thomas, Owen (November 20, 2012). "Color, The $41 Million App, Really Is Shutting Down Now". Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  5. ^ Nguyen, Bill (March 25, 2011). "Why is Color named "Color"?". Quora. Retrieved December 14, 2011.
  6. ^ Alleman, Andrew (March 24, 2011). "Sequoia and Bain Capital-Backed Startup Was $350,000 Buyer". DomainNameWire. Retrieved December 15, 2011.
  7. ^ McMahan, TY (March 24, 2011). "Sequoia To Color Labs: Not Since Google Have We Seen This". WSJ. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
  8. ^ Rao, Leena (September 18, 2011). "Sequoia's Doug Leone: We Are 'Thrilled' To Be Investors In Color, 'Stay Tuned' For The Pivot". TechCrunch. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
  9. ^ Arrington, Michael (July 21, 2011). "Google Tried To Buy Color For $200 Million. Color Said No". TechCrunch. Retrieved December 11, 2011.
  10. ^ Ha, Anthony (April 1, 2011). "Can Color beat the backlash with an improved interface?". Venture Beat. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  11. ^ Arrington, Michael (June 14, 2011). "Troubled Startup Color Loses Cofounder Peter Pham". TechCrunch. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
  12. ^ "Color Labs Chief Product Officer DJ Patil Resigns".
  13. ^ Scoble, Robert (April 1, 2011). "The funding and failures of Color, Silicon Valley's $41 million startup (wrapup of the week of hype and hate)". Scobleizer. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  14. ^ Bilton, Ricardo (October 17, 2012). "Color goes dark: Board votes to shut down company, source says". Venture Beat. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  15. ^ Bilton, Ricardo (October 17, 2012). "Even Color doesn't know what's happening at Color". Venture Beat. Retrieved October 18, 2012.

External links[edit]