With a website and a mobile app, Tout aims to connect people through user video streams and by hooking into Twitter and Facebook. There’s just one catch: these shareable moments on video can be no more than 11 seconds. It may not be enough time.


Updated. There’s a new startup called Tout that is built specifically to allow video sharing moments with friends and followers, either from their own lives or from videos on YouTube. With a website and a mobile app, Tout seeks to build connections based on these video moments by creating user video streams and hooking into Twitter and Facebook. There’s just one catch: all those must-see moments have to be 11 seconds or less.

Following the annoying Silicon Valley convention of trying to making app functions into verbs, tThe company invites users to “tout” whatever they happen to be doing for 11 seconds to some nebulous group of people on the Internet that you may or may not know. The website also enables users to choose 11-second clips from videos on YouTube and share those short snippets with their friends and followers. Users can also tag videos based on location, topic or theme to help create meaningful groups of like videos.

According to CEO Michael Downing, one-time founder of video sharing site GoFish, Tout seeks to create a social communications network of short video files. It wants to tap into the zeitgeist of short, real-time communications applications, like Twitter for text or Instagram for images, to become the go-to place for the sharing of purely visual moments online.

So why 11 seconds? Well, for one thing, Downing said that most online viewers tend to abandon videos in less than nine seconds. So if you’re not able to grab someone’s attention in that amount of time, they’re unlikely to stick around anyway. But Downing said after much user testing, 11 seconds seemed to be the minimum amount of video time necessary to capture a meaningful moment without being too long.

In theory, it sounds like an interesting idea. After all, if Twitter can distill our thoughts down to 140 characters or less, maybe Tout can bring some focus into videos of our overwhelmingly hectic lives. Perhaps it could force vloggers to be less verbose or even force users who share videos with their friends to focus more on specific moments, rather than passing along lengthy narratives.

In practice, the results tend to be underwhelming. Videos that others post can be enlightening and hilarious, but most often as a viewer you’re left itching for more. More context, more narrative, more something. Browsing through the “touts” of others, I found many short videos felt unwhole or incomplete. And as a Touter? While Twitter’s 140-character limit tends to make you more thoughtful about what you write, I found the 11-second limit to be extremely restrictive and somewhat arbitrary, frequently not allowing me to complete a thought before time was up.

All that said, the company does have some interesting technology and backers. The core technology was built in the Stanford Research Institute and was spun off early last year to become its own entity. It has two core patents from SRI that were developed over two years and assigned to new company. In exchange for the intellectual property, SRI took an equity stake in the startup.

Tout has raised $2 million in funding from Li Ka Shing’s Horizons Ventures, Anduin Ventures, Seavest Venture Capital and SRI. It has a six-person team headquartered in the Founders Den in San Francisco, and a pretty impressive advisory board that includes Brightroll Founder & CEO Tod Sacerdoti, former Google VP of Marketing and Spinner.com founder Scott Epstein, CoTweet and Spinner CTO David Bill and Writely founder Sam Schillace.

The app is currently awaiting approval from the Apple App Store and is in private beta. Users who are interested in signing up can request to join the pre-release beta at Tout.com.

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  1. Schlomo Rabinowitz Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Sure didn’t take people long to forget 12seconds.tv, which I thought fought the good fight (and really tried to extend their core competencies with their suite of iPhone apps).

    1. 12seconds.TV… more like 3Years.TooEarly

    2. Ha! Indeed! WTH! “…after much user testing, 11 seconds seemed to be the minimum amount of video time necessary to capture a meaningful moment without being too long.” Sheesh. Much user testing, I’m sure. It’s called 12seconds.tv. They could at least give some props to 12s. A lot of us worked hard to make that community work (not to mention Sol, Beach, and Jacob working hard behind the scenes) and seeing some other company try the same concept with no acknowledgment of what came before is pretty frustrating. Enjoying the view from the shoulders of others are you Tout?

  2. -“Silicon Valley convention of trying to making app functions into verbs…”??
    ummm… ‘tout’ is a verb, has been for a long time (at least since I learned English). Intrigued by app, can’t access Tout.com though… when do they go live?
    PS: Tout: verb \ˈtau̇t, in sense 4 also ˈtüt\
    1: to make much of : promote, talk up
    -intransitive verb-
    2: to solicit patronage

  3. Imitation = flattery. It also = unoriginality.

  4. I own a 12seconds.tv t-shirt from another shortlived company, startup schwag. 11 seconds? Seriously?

  5. …seriously? you’ve just written a whole piece about an 11 second video site, without mentioning 12seconds.tv ? Exact same idea, which was beautifully done from a community point of view (and spawned an excellent project by way of Ben Walker’s 12-second songs collection – http://tumblr.ihatemornings.com/post/4007247778/a-short-score )

    I hope these guys can make a go of it…

  6. Michael Silverton Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    I too am just a tad curious why no mention of 12seconds.tv in this article. Just my 2 cents Ryan, but does seem like a pretty salient historical point to skip over, IMHO. The fact that the concept is not new could have been spun a dozen ways come Sunday, but surely worthy of mention? In any case, thanks for touting tout and bringing it to our attention. ;-)

  7. Oh, snap. This is basically 12seconds, but with less time :/

  8. WTF? You’re not even going to mention 12seconds.tv???

  9. It’s crazy to me that this article has NO MENTION of 12seconds.tv , they did some amazing stuff. The iPhone platform was incredible and the direct and locked Facebook integration was so nice for sending short messages that can mean so much more than text. This 11 second situation better have some original stuff up their sleeves or it’s gonna be a shameful cut/copy. But then again a wise man once told me “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” However, I don’t think he was talking about the internet start up business.

  10. Way to rip off 12seconds, jerks.

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