Here Are All The Questions Swirling Around colour, The Most-Overhyped Startup Of The Decade

Bill Nguyen founder colour and Lalacolour CEO Bill Nguyen hasn’t been around in months.

Photo: colour

Today, a report about the possible shutdown of colour, a photo-sharing startup with an eccentric CEO and $41 million in funding, did the startup one enormous favour.It got everyone talking about colour.

But there are far more questions than answers about its future.

colour itself has not addressed the report. But a spokesperson for Sequoia Capital, acting on behalf of the startup, told us earlier today, “colour is not shutting down.”

VentureBeat, the publication which broke the story, has updated its original story to identify the author of an email which said, in part that colour’s board and shareholders had “voted to wind down the company” last week as Andrew Urushima, the company’s vice president of finance. 

The email attributed to Urushima also read: “We ask that you politely cancel any existing commitments stating we are closing our [redacted] program.”

Here’s what we know:

  • colour CEO Bill Nguyen, best known for founding a music startup, Lala, and selling it to Apple, was last heard from heading to a self-imposed sabbatical in Hawaii.
  • Despite Sequoia’s big stake in the company, Nguyen effectively controls the board, a source familiar with the company told us.
  • After we reported that colour was no longer listed on Sequoia Capital’s website, a spokesperson for the venture-capital firm declared it a mistake and colour’s page was restored. According to a copy of the page cached in Google’s search results, colour had been listed fairly recently.
  • A troika of executives—CTO and cofounder Vincent Mallet, front end engineering manager Sandip Chokshi, and business-development chief Tamara Steffens—are still running the company day to day. (That’s the same group TechCrunch reported was in charge in September.) Mallet is “extremely talented,” a source tells us.
  • Headcount hasn’t changed significantly. colour’s hiring a product designer, according to its website.
  • colour switched from its original photo-sharing app, which was a complete dud, to a video-sharing tool in May.
  • It signed a partnership with Verizon Wireless, which includes the colour app on all of its new Android smartphones. Its website still mentions colour as a product feature on phones like the Droid Maxx. We asked Verizon for comment on the state of its partnership and haven’t heard back.
  • Despite the Verizon deal, the app only has about 460,000 active monthly users, according to AppData. While that’s a pretty good number—similarly-hyped social-sharing startup Path has 720,000 monthly active users, by comparison—you’d expect more from an app that comes standard on a big part of a major carrier’s smartphones.
  • There’s massive competition for video- and photo-sharing tools. Even Twitter is thinking about providing its own video service for its mobile app.

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