It isn’t often that we hear about a startup looking to build things that are “massively small”. But today a new startup called Particle is coming out of stealth with that mantra, along with a handful of bite-sized new products that seem to fit the bill nicely. The company is also bringing with it an interesting source of funding, with musician Justin Timberlake as its lead investor (Timberlake isn’t new to Silicon Valley – his past investments include Tapulous).
The first service to launch today is called Robo.to, which is meant to serve as a ‘digital calling card’. In some senses the service is like a mix between Google Profiles and Ping.fm, offering a single hub for all of your online presences and social activity, from which you can broadcast your status updates to multiple services. Visitors to your profile can quickly see how many Twitter followers you have, your latest Flickr photos, your current location (assuming you’ve plotted it), and links to your other online presences.
The site also prominently features a spot for a ‘video avatar’ – a brief video clip that’s meant to take the place of traditional emoticons or static photos, which you can broadcast to a number of popular online services. It’s a neat concept, reminiscent of the moving photographs from Harry Potter (for an example see the video below, or Timberlake’s profile here). And while it may not catch on with everyone, I suspect it could prove popular with younger crowds. The site is also very mobile friendly (note the narrow width), and plays nice with the iPhone out the gate.
The second service is Crush3r, an Evite competitor that allows users to send out invitations to their friends. While not particularly novel, the service is well designed with very little clutter. Each invitation is also highly customizable, with a checklist of options for each module that you’d like to be included with the invitation (options include videos, a list of other guests, and items that the invitee should bring). Like I said, it’s nothing revolutionary, but it seems like a great alternative to some of the bloated sites like Evite that many of us have been trying to move away from for years.
Finally, there’s p0p, which is a sort of scrapbook for listing your favorite sites, books, and media content into lists, which can then be shared with friends. After building these lists, users can then share them as blog embeds or via social networks. And as your friends join, it can be used as a recommendation engine.
At this point it isn’t exactly clear what Particle’s vision is with its products – they obviously seem to be pretty disjointed, though they’ve all been well designed and are quite polished. CEO Rey Flemings says that there is a grand plan; we’ll just have to wait a few more months to see it. And even if the grand scheme doesn’t come to fruition, at least they’re hedging their bets across three fairly discrete spaces.