Tout, the service that lets you post real-time status updates, and another spin-out from SRI, the research institute that birthed Apple’s Siri, is announcing today that it has closed $13.4 million in Series B funding. The investor line-up in this one is interesting, as it includes WWE – yes, that’s “World Wrestling Entertainment!” Others in the round included 819 Capital and individual investors Gordon Crawford, Stan Shuman and Jack Schneider from Allen & Co. The round follows Tout’s $2 million Series A in December 2010, which saw investment from Stanford Research Institute (SRI), Horizons Ventures, and Seavest Ventures.
The company has seen its fair share of high-profile users, including Shaquille O’Neal (who announced his retirement on Tout) and Survivor host Jeff Probst, for example, as well as Ryan Seacrest, Erin Andrews, Dr. Oz, and a number of news stations and major media networks including CBS, National Geographic Channel, CNBC’s “Fast Money,” C-SPAN, ESPN and even presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Tout, for those unfamiliar, allows you to post video messages of up to 15 seconds. People who follow you and see the message can then reply with their own 15-second videos. Twitter-for-video and other video messaging startups (e.g. Seesmic, Vlix) haven’t really caught on (unless you count YouTube, and perhaps you should), but Tout believes that its inroads with the celeb/media crowd will be to its advantage. Apparently, WWE agrees.
The company says it now has 23 million users. In March, the company said it had 12 million users visiting its website, so it’s unclear if Tout is counting unique visitors or those with registered accounts here. (
We’ll update when we hear back UPDATE: Here’s what Tout says: “In March we had experienced 12MM total visitors to our application (web and mobile) since launch. That number now is well above 23MM total visitors who have ever come to our application (mobile & web) since launch. It’s not a monthly number, its cumulative since launch – i.e. total visits since launch”). That’s kind of a big deal – after all, celebs can easily get fans to click through, but how many users then stick around to participate themselves?
But even if they don’t, maybe that’s OK with Tout, it seems. In an earlier interview, CEO Michael Downing told TechCrunch that the company’s vision was not to be “a destination social network,” but wants to enable video messaging for everyone else. The company was then testing an API and teasing “some major partners” in the works. I guess we have some insight into WWE’s interest, then. By the way, if you’re interested in sending your messages to WWE’s “superstars and divas” – and c’mon, you know you are, right? – the company is prompting Tout on its homepage here. Hold my calls.