Instagram is set to raise a massive Series B round of venture financing and, according to AllThingsD, the round will be led by preeminent VC firm Sequoia Capital — the same firm that funded the likes of Apple, Google, YouTube, PayPal, Oracle, and Yahoo!. The company will reportedly be raising $50 million on a $500 million valuation, which is a hefty price point for a 17-month-old company with a headcount of 13. The service boasted 30 million iPhone users prior to its Android launch earlier this week, after which they received 1 million new signups in less than 24 hours. Now all it need to do is figure out a way to turn its popularity into dollar bills…
Instagram is reportedly in the process of securing new round of funding that values the 16-month-old company at a staggering $500 million — 20 times what the company was valued at a year ago. Although the $40 million round has drawn a lot of interest from investors, many of the top VC firms have decided to stay away due to the high valuation and the fact that Instagram still needs to prove that it can turn popularity into profit. The 9-man company currently has over 15 million users and is working on bringing its popular app to the Android market.
The photo-sharing startup scene is getting hot, with social apps on mobile devices receiving quite a bit of money and attention lately. Instagram has hundreds of thousands of users now after just a month, and competitor PicPlz just raised a cool $5 million from the same VC firm that invested in Instagram.
Another app that’s receiving attention is PhotoRocket, which raised $1.3 shortly after going into private alpha last week. It simplifies photo sharing for the non-technically savvy by allowing people to broadcast photos to people and social networking services by right clicking photos on their computer and selecting to share. The short 30 second demo above gives you a glimpse into how the service works.
LensVector, a Silicon Valley startup working on novel lens technology, has received its latest round of funding from In-Q-Tel, a not-for-profit venture firm that invests for the sole purpose of boosting US intelligence capability by providing the CIA with state-of-the-art information technology.
So what’s LensVector developing that CIA would want? Lenses that focus electronically with no moving parts.
Here’s a diagram by LensVector showing how their tiny autofocus lenses work compared to traditional technology:
Rather than using mechanical parts to focus a lens, LensVector uses electricity to align liquid crystals to a desired shape, which focuses light to a particular point.
Given the CIA’s interest in this technology, it must be working pretty well. Hopefully we’ll see this introduced to consumer cameras that need it (i.e. cell phones) soon.
A fun fact: another startup that received In-Q-Tel funding was Keyhole, Inc., the geospatial data visualization company that was acquired by Google in 2004. Their flagship product, Earth Viewer, was turned into Google Earth.
The San Diego-based startup is one of the closest competitors of TwitPic, the most popular photo sharing service for Twitter. As long as Twitter doesn’t compete in this space with 3rd party sites by starting its own service or acquiring one of the services, the future looks bright for TweetPhoto. Last year, TwitPic raked in $1.5 million in revenue and turned down an offer “much higher than $10“.
Although TweetPhoto still lags behind TwitPic in terms of traffic, TweetPhoto is attempting to ensure its growth and survival by spreading its eggs across multiple baskets. Unlike TwitPic, TweetPhoto has expanded to support other social networks including Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Foursquare.
GigaOM also reports that the company is thinking about changing its name, and will likely do so at some point in the future.
Real time photo sharing is just getting started and, if the investors are correct, we should be seeing much more growth and innovation in this space in the near future.