Video: Picplz's Dalton Caldwell Says It's All About the Money
When you talk to early-stage Web entrepreneurs, they often want to talk about their latest feature, their undying dedication to delighting users, how they’re growing like crazy and all the vast unmet needs their company is finally addressing. Believe me, I have nothing against changing the world, but often it all sounds the same.
However, when you talk to Dalton Caldwell about his start-up Mixed Media Labs, he pulls the conversation to the topic of making money. Priority No. 1 for Caldwell is building a sustainable business. That drive arises out of his last start-up experience, with the music site Imeem, which failed in dramatic fashion (something about which he’s spoken publicly).
Mixed Media Labs, said Caldwell in a recent interview, is setting out to build a series of apps intended to prove that monetization of a mobile social community is possible. The company’s first app is Picplz, which has logically been lumped in with other very similar recent mobile photo-sharing apps like Instagram and Path. Instagram has seen tremendous growth and is beloved by early adopters. Path is trying an audacious approach to controlled, personal sharing.
The strengths of Picplz appear to be a bit harder to describe, but they include being built primarily in HTML5 so that the company can launch and iterate quickly on multiple platforms rather than just on the iPhone. Picplz is available on Android, iPhone and through a fully featured Web app. It recently added support for posting photos to Flickr, Tumblr and Posterous.
Picplz is also the one competitor to have its Series A funding provided by and a board seat occupied by Marc Andreessen, whose firm Andreessen Horowitz put $5 million into Mixed Media Labs despite having also provided early funding for Instagram.
So what’s the big idea? Caldwell said “there was no secret PowerPoint” he was withholding from me about his company’s larger plans. Rather, he wants to test a lot of things and see what works. He sees Mixed Media Labs as an application studio like Ngmoco and Zynga, he said, where the goal is to find apps that monetize by empowering small teams to execute big ideas.
And speaking of monetization, what will this magical business model be? Caldwell said it’s likely to be performance ads. At this point, of course, Mixed Media Labs is really not much different from other early-stage start-ups; it has seven employees, none of whom are sales people (and yes, it’s trying to make some apps that delight users).
Here’s a short video of Caldwell in his new, virtually unadorned San Francisco office, elaborating on some of these topics.