E128: Bill Nguyen, Co-founder of Color.com on This Week in Startups



about this episode

Fresh off Color.com’s $41 million raise, Bill Nguyen joins TWiST to discuss his successes–and what he would do differently next time. Bill also shares his thoughts on implicit social media, the “bubble” and why he likes to work in the bathtub.

1:30-3:00  .CO contest reminder- ending April 1. To enter, buy a .co address and email your receipt to contest@thisweekin.com. Jason and Tyler will pick the best idea.
3:00-3:30  Bill Nguyen from Color.com is here with us today, welcome Bill.
3:30-5:00  What should we take away from this raise? What does it mean for the industry?
5:00-5:30  You’re building an implied social network, correct?
5:30-6:30  Explain to users what is different about an implied or implicit social network versus an explicit one.
6:30-7:30  When did you first have this idea? What was the creative spark and when did you have it?
7:30-8:30  You went to work for Steve Jobs after Lala. What is the experience like selling your company to Apple? Do you agree that Steve is the greatest product creator in the history of technology?
8:30-9:30  Why not stay and build inside of apple?
9:30-10:30 Let’s talk about how the app works. Jason can see photos from an employee’s weekend even though he wasn’t there with him. Explain how that works.
10:30-11:00  If you stop looking at someone’s photos, their connection to you will diminish.
11:00-12:30  What if the user wants to do explicit things with my network? Color feels like a minimally viable product. What’s your product philosophy?
12:30-15:00  You’re happy that this product is getting so much attention but you also seem beat up by all the attention on the big number. You’re taking some of the heat from your team. Would you do anything differently?
15:45-17:15  Steve Jobs was your first investor–true or not true?
17:15-18:15  Isn’t it true that if you do something truly revolutionary, 80-90% of people won’t understand it initially?
18:15-19:30  Jason loves Color because people around him are using it. Twitter had the same problem early on.
19:30-20:45   Is this the social network for people who are antisocial?
20:45-21:30  Is the name a tribute to Apple?
21:30-22:30  You landed Sequoia Capital as an investor. They offered you double the money to go faster, this is the only firm you wanted to work with? Why?
22:30-23:30  How many days did it take to close the deal and how long was the conversation?
23:30-24:00  (Jason shows screen) What is the collection of photos?
24:00-25:30  So in terms of mobile and the non-PC world, you’re not opposed to a PC being involved in this process?
25:30-26:00  Any questions from the audience? Why wasn’t it ready for SXSW? (Robert) Scoble almost had a heart attack. Were you planning on releasing this there?
26:00-27:00  What’s this about taking baths in some porcelain bath tub?
27:00-28:00  Question from the audience: Jeff Clapp wants to know about how the data mining aspect and how that can play out long term. What do you plan on doing with all this data?
28:00-29:00  What do you know about the user? Do you know that a photo comes from an iPhone because of the phone’s ID?
29:00-29:30  What happens if you lose your phone? Do you also lose your implied social network?
29:30-31:30  Ad for Squarespace. Go to link to get a 14 day free trial.
31:30-32:00  Why did you bring Peter Pham on as a co-founder?
32:00-33:00  What are the top 2 or 3 partnerships you want to have? Have you thought that far ahead?
33:00-33:30  What was Freeloader.com?
33:30-35:00  How do you get rid of the inappropriate pictures? How do you avoid becoming Chatroulette?
35:00-35:30  You can’t possibly mechanical turk every image. Do you just do the first 3 or 5?
35:30-36:00  Is the implied social network patented?
36:00-36:30  How does mechanical turk make the judgment call that things are appropriate in different places?
36:30-37:45  If a user takes photos that are even remotely provocative, they’re not going to be allowed?
37:45-39:15  What impact would the product have had in Egypt or Libya? How do you think it will be received in China? Have you thought about the sociopolitical aspects of this product?
39:15-40:00  One third of Twitter’s traffic comes from photos, another third from social gaming. Are you going to compete in social gaming?
40:00-41:00  What do you think of Path?
41:00-42:00  Talent wars are going insane in the Valley. What are you going to do and how do you compete in terms of talent?
42:00-43:00  How do you complete, or do you complete, with Foursquare or Gowalla?
43:00-44:15  Is advertising the monetization plan here? Where do you think the money is, or do you not care as you build to scale?
44:15-45:30  You’ve been unfairly labeled as the biggest sign that there is a bubble today. How do you deal with that as an entrepreneur?
45:30-47:30  You keep opening up the door for a philosophical belief that the implied social network will mean better social behavior. Do you believe something is special about the implied social network, that will make the world behave?
47:30-50:00  Thank you for being on the program Bill. Jason thinks this is the one that will become the social network that could actually challenge Facebook.
51:30-52:30  Thank you to .CO. Remember to forward your receipt to enter the Squarespace contest.

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Background on Bill and Color

Bill Nguyen

  • Founder and CEO of OneBox (Sold for $850M to Phone.com)
  • Formally Founder of LaLa (Sold to Apple)
  • Founded ‘SEVEN’ networks
  • VP of Products at Freeloader.com
  • Head of Biz Dev and Product Management at ForeFront Group


  • From idea to launch in 7 months
  • Just raised $41M in pre-launch funding
  • Bought Color.com for $350K (also bought Colour.com for an est. $150k)
  • Funded by Sequoia Capital, Bain Capital and Silicon Valley Bank
  • Color.com is the largest pre-launch investment Sequoia Capital has ever made
  • Dubbed the “Twitter of photo apps”
  • Opening their office up to the public
  • Has a staff of 27 in Palo Alto


Jason: @jason
Tyler: @steepdecline
Bill: @billnguyen
Color:  @color

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