Some consolidation afoot in the world of social recommendations and referrals: Tout’d, a site that lets networks of users share recommendations with each other, has bought Villij, a site from TechStars’ first incubator classes in 2007, and co-founded by one of the people who went on to found Tout’d [more on that below]. Villij connects users based on similar interests and their online activity profiles — a kind of early attempt at mapping out a user’s social graph. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, except to note that it was a stock and cash deal, mostly in stock.
Tout’d is embracing its new acquisition with two open arms: not only is it integrating Villij’s platform into its own, but it is also rebranding as Villij, “to more accurately reflect the benefits of the online community,” to company said in a statement today.
Along with the new name, and as a result of the integration, Villij is relaunching its website with a host of new features.
The main one of these is social search, where users can look at what other people have been searching for on the site based on keywords and phrases. Other updates include closer integration with Facebook and Gmail, an updated mobile web app, notifications, and maps — all of which are fairly essential table stakes for any socially-focused service today.
While (the original) Villij was one of the earlier movers in social search and social graphs, Tout’d launched only in June of this year and in July announced a $1.4 million seed round led by Warner Hill Angels and including no less than 25 other investors.
The move signifies a more aggressive phase for the combined company. Expanding what a user can do on (the new) Villij gives it more ways to attract users and then keep them engaged on the site. While users are still tied to their own social networks of users, it also gives them a way of seeing what others who are not in their networks are also doing. It also helps it better compete against the likes of Facebook. For its part, Facebook in July made a foray into social recommendations through the launch of a news Recommendations plug-in — combining that concept with its Offers service for local businesses could be one potential competitive threat for Villij.
“The acquisition of Villij allows us to provide our users with more functionality within the site and enhance the way they share experiences and insights with one another through our fully redesigned platform,” said Rob Morelli, a co-founder of Tout’d, in a statement. Morelli’s co-founders are Saro Cutri and Arron Kallenberg.
Kallenberg has history with Villij: he was one of the co-founders of it, along with Anthony Dimitre and Theron McCollough.
The backstory of Villij, as told to us by Villij, is actually an interesting one after it was accepted into the original TechStars Boulder class in 2007, and is one to consider when working on technology that is cutting edge. “While at TechStars, Arron and his partners worked on some innovative technology in the recommendation space that was, unfortunately, a bit ahead of its time and massively underfunded. Thus, Localcents’ [the company that made Villij] staff was reduced to a minimum as Arron and Anthony went on to co-found and eventually sell, DandyID.org and Claim.io. When Arron, Rob and Saro teamed up in early 2012 to start building Tout’d, it became apparent to the team that some of Villij’s core concepts and technology could still be quite useful. Thus a deal was struck with Localcents’ Shareholders to acquire the company.” Neither Villig old or new is revealing current user numbers.