Startup Lytro has layoffs, despite innovative product

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Despite having one of the more innovative physical products to enter the marketplace in recent years, startup Lytro is having trouble moving their ground breaking camera technology and has begun layoffs from its Silicon Valley headquarters.

About two years ago, Lytro introduced a new camera capable of taking digital photographs from multiple focal points, simultaneously. This allows the user to re-focus the photograph after it’s been taken, meaning the same photo can become many photos as the focal point changes.

The idea lit up the tech and photographic worlds with buzz about the implications this could have for cameras from traditional photo taking to security cameras and more. Since then, the startup brought in $50 million in funding and penned sales deals with Amazon, Best Buy, Target and others.

When the camera came to market, however, it did so with a fizzle and thud. With a $400 price tag and limited capabilities outside of the multi-focal ability, it was a dud with both professional photographers and gadget hounds alike.

Earlier this year, founder and CEO Ren Ng, who developed the camera for his PhD at Stanford, stepped down to focus on product development – the company has promised far more compelling versions of the camera next year – and Jason Rosenthal, whose background in business is far more sculpted to building a company, took over.

The company’s focus is still on producing cutting-edge cameras using their core multi-focal technology, of course, but now the plan is to push it forward into better products and eventually as a licensed technology for other companies to use in theirs.  One device they’ve promised, which may finally get them on the map sales-wise, is a professional-level camera using the technology. That should be here in the first half of next year, insider say.

Lytro is one of those companies that you really want to see succeed. They have a great product, a highly innovative idea, and have been given the tools needed to get there. The hype, however, out paced their product initially and this may become a millstone they’ll have to cut themselves loose from.

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