Radar Addiction

I try not to get too giddy about startup reviews, but I’m addicted to a camera phone photo sharing service called Radar, by a San Francisco-based company called Tiny Pictures. I’m more addicted than when I first joined MySpace a few years ago, and kept checking for new friend requests. That is tough to beat.
A lot of startups have been trying to unlock the trifecta of camera phones, social networks, and high-speed broadband. These elements seem to be the must-have buzz words of the moment slapped on every press release recently. But there are a few companies like Tiny Pictures that seem to be getting it right.

With Radar, a user snaps camera phone pictures on the go and uploads them to a private network of approved friends, who can then add comments to those photos. The photos are displayed as a channel, so a user can easily glance at all the stuff their friends took pictures of, and can read and add comments to the dialogue. Users can access the site from both cell phones and over their computer.
It’s not that this idea is very new; cell phone users can do it on a carrier’s own photo sharing site, or sites like Flickr or use Shozu. But it’s Radar’s design, ease of use and social aspect that make it work. I made a few friends test it out with me, and one uploaded photos of his week-long cross-country biking trip. The perfect use case is college kids posting drunken photos from parties at 2 A.M. in the morning. Unlike a lot of photo-sharing sites, the photos on Radar aren’t supposed to be actually good, they’re a message to your friends about what you’re doing, where you are, and what weird or stupid stuff you saw along the way.
The service is free but of course there are the charges from the carrier for sending photos to your Radar email address. That’s why if the service ever gets some traction, carriers might want to make a deal or highlight the Radar service. If you don’t have an unlimited or package multi media messaging deal, watch out! I racked up a ton of charges testing it out and paying per message.
The company also knows its target youth audience pretty well, given there are hardly any employees in their thirties or older. Their Mission District (San Francisco)-based offices looks like a local cafe hangout and the CEO John Poisson was the former director of mobile media design and development for Sony in Japan.
Tiny Pictures raised a series A round from Mohr Davidow Ventures of $2.77 million. Poisson said the company isn’t looking for funding right now, even though VCs have been banging down his door. The company plans to be at a Churchill event in Santa Clara later today if anyone wants to try their hand at investing. Good luck.
The service launched a few months ago, but the company says they are already working with a couple of different device manufacturers (who target the youth market) to port Radar to their devices. They are also developing a range of clients for handsets that will be available through carriers for a small monthly fee. A beta client is available today, for free, for a range of handsets and on carriers that allow open downloads (namely Cingular and T-Mobile in the US). Better access to users is what they need more than anything else, since I think once users test it out, they’ll probably get hooked too.