Lytro began in 2006 and in 2012 released a novel product — a consumer camera that lets users refocus images after shooting them, based on light-field technology that captures an image at “multiple depths.” But, 6 years and $216m in funding later, they’re closing up shop.
Why couldn’t they keep the dream alive?
The same reason that keeps countless founders up at night: a lack of product market fit. AKA, a product that a target consumer actually wants to buy.
Lytro was too ahead of its time…
For one, their flagship product was a camera… that looked and functioned nothing like a camera. It was long and cylindrical and measured “megarays” instead of megapixels.
Reviewers said they “never really got used to holding the Lytro,” and admitted that the most impressive thing about it wasn’t the image quality or performance, but the underlying light-field tech.
So, in 2015, after failing to corner the “prosumer” photography market, Lytro pivoted to virtual reality and released a 360-degree camera.
But, it didn’t exactly have mass appeal — it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, required special training, and VR entertainment as a whole has been struggling to find a consumer.
Then suddenly, a glimmer of hope
Instead, Lytro joins the ranks of countless Captain Ahabs who’ve perished in pursuit of Silicon Valley’s great white whale — a viable business model.