ToutApp raises $350k from Esther Dyson, Dave McClure, Eric Ries, and Others

Jun 21, 2011, by Tawheed Kader (TK), Founder and CEO

I’m excited to announce today that ToutApp has completed a funding round of $350k from a set of people that we’re not only bringing on as investors but as strategic advisors to help us truly disrupt the future of business email.

The Advisory Round Lineup

As Advisory Rounds go, with each person in the round comes a unique story of how we met, got to know each other and eventually closed the deal. Here are the highlights:

Esther DysonEsther Dyson - I “met” Esther when I first demoed Tout at the New York Tech Meetup. Although I tried to meet up with her shortly after, the stars just didn’t align. We met again serendipitously when I demoed Tout again at the NY Entrepreneur’s Roundtable.  It was clear that she cared deeply about the Email problem as she started to interject during my demo and started giving parts of my pitch for me to the rest of the audience (it was awesome)! Esther and I kept in touch, and we eventually closed the deal out in California as I gave her a ride from Palo Alto to SFO. Boom.

Dave McClure

Dave McClure / 500Startups - I met Dave McClure on a completely random night at SXSW. The night started off at a Mixergy event, and then before I knew it, I was on a Peddi Cab with Paul Singh and Aaron Batalion (with the three of us, the cabbie was pedaling about 700lbs up a hill!) to grab dinner. They invited me to come along and casually mentioned “oh..we’re getting dinner with Dave.”—To my surprise, when we actually got to the restaurant, “Dave” was actually Dave McClure.

The funny thing is, I ended up pitching Tout to just about everyone on that table except for Dave. The only real exchange the two of us had was when Dave stared at my Vodka Martini with 16 olives (because thats just how I roll), and asked “Hey TK…. how’s that drink treating you?”

Needless to say, Dave and I connected soon after, and before I knew it, not only was he investing in Tout, but he also convinced me to move out to California for the summer to join the 500 Startups Accelerator program. Boom.

Paul Singh

Paul Singh - Its important to mention Paul Singh at this point in the story. We connected with each other through Hacker News nearly two years ago and he’s been with me since “the beginning” of Tout. On the same vein, he was totally instrumental in helping to make the 500Startups deal, the accelerator program and my overall strategy around doing an investment round happen.

Eric Ries

Eric Ries - I met Eric when I presented Tout at a Lean Startup Demo event. We connected on a number of different levels. Not only was the history around Tout completely reflecting what he has been preaching around the Lean Startup movement, he also absolutely loved the analytical thinking we were bringing to day-to-day emails.

We connected again soon, and closed the deal. The ideas around Lean Startup has been instrumental in getting Tout to where it is today. We want to continue to explore these principles, learn more, and give back to the community in terms of shared knowledge. I’m super excited that Eric will be along for the ride to guide us.

Daniel Eskapa. - Daniel is not as well known in the Tech Investing world, but he’s quietly been investing in the tech space and been making some really incredibly smart investments. We were introduced through a mutual friend and before we knew it, we had spent hours upon hours together hanging out, talking about Tout, talking about life, spirituality, and doing good in the world. I’m super excited to have Daniel on as an Investor and an Advisor, and most importantly a good friend.

Joshua BaerJoshua Baer - I also met Josh at SXSW. He had tweeted out that he was doing “free happy hour” and I knew that he was incredibly interested in the Email space. I crashed the party only to realize I had no idea what he actually looks like. Somehow, I ran into his main PR guy… after convincing him of how awesome Tout is, I convinced him to find Josh immediately and introduce me to him. After meeting Josh, he told me “Look man, I’m buying a house soon. I’m not investing.”—I said “That’s cool… How about we meet anyway sometime this week so I can get some feedback on the product…”

We met the next day, I gave him a demo, talked through how we’re thinking about the business. He decided to invest. Boom. Josh has already added a lot of value in terms of thinking through use cases and spreading the word about our product. I’m excited to be working more with him.

NYC Seed Fund / Owen Davis - Tout is and probably will be for quite some time a New York company (we’re figuring this out a day at a time). I’m super excited that the NYC Seed Fund is supporting Tout and Owen will be helping us think through the use cases around Email.

I was introduced to Owen by our lawyer Adam Dinow. Ironically, Owen was already a customer of Tout. It also worked out that he’s been particularly interested in the Email and Collaboration space for quite some time. So when we got to talking, he already “got it.” I’m super excited about the value he’ll be bringing to the company.

Hesky KutscherTuff YenManeesh AroraPaul SethiHector HulianVivek Sharma

I could really go on an on about each of the other investors, but alas I think they want me to go back to running the company at this point! I am just as excited about having Hesky Kutscher (who was already a customer of Tout), Maneesh Arora (who funded me within the first 15 minutes of meeting me during a walk to Starbucks—after a thorough grilling of the product and the business model), Tuff Yen, Paul Sethi, Hector Hulian, Vivek Sharma (who is another Email rockstar), and Brandon and Ryan from Venture51.

A Special Thanks

I do want to take this moment to give a Special Thanks to all of our customers. Before we had any funding, any investor interest or any buzz on AngelList, we had you, our paying and loyal customers, that not only took money out of their wallets to pay for Tout but also took to the interwebs to spread the word about Tout. Thank You.

Here’s a small example of what I’m talking about:


What’s Next for the Company?

The money from this Advisory Round has already been put into play to turn Tout from a one-man-show (i.e. me) to a real team. We’ve made key hires in Engineering and Community Management and are in the process of hiring someone for Sales/Marketing and Design.

We’re also participating in the 500Startups Summer Accelerator program. The program is set to end mid-August and we’ll be opening up our next funding round during Demo Day (we’re already talking to interested investors).

What’s Next for the Product?

Tout’s singular goal is to help people communicate better via email. The way we do this is by identifying patterns that exist in how people communicate and then optimizing for those patterns.

We think Repetitive Email (what we’re working on now) is one such pattern. As we get closer to perfecting this pattern, we want to move onto other patterns as well including: Scheduling, Introductions, Contact Info Sharing and even Group Discussions.

I think we’ll still be using Email 10 years from now. Except what Email is and how it works, 10 years from now, will be drastically different, just like how the Web Browser today is drastically different from what it was 10 years ago. We’re looking to lead that evolution of Email.

We’re excited, I hope you are too.

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