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Tout Launches as the Latest Twitter for Video; Will it Take Off?

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To be fair, Michael Downing, the CEO of Tout, doesn't like the term "Twitter for video." It's overused, he says. Too many companies have been called that. And yet that does seem like an apt description of Tout, a social platform that lets people share video of what they're experiencing, but limits those videos to 11 seconds.

The platform began in November, 2009, when Downing was an entrepreneur-in-residence at Stanford University. After developing the idea, his team incorporated the company in January, 2010, raising $200,000 in angel funding, and then $2 million in a financing round led by Horizon Group in December. While still in beta, the company launched its iPhone app a few weeks ago.

The heart of Tout is taking 11 second videos and uploading them instantly. The app is free. Users can enter a description for each video and even use hashtags for organization. From the Tout website, members can follow their friends and see who's following them. Videos don't have to come from a smartphone: members can also import a section of a YouTube-hosted video.

The idea is to have a visual conversation, says Downing. People can see what their friends are experiencing or select content by hashtag or channel to get a broader view.

While the free service has just launched, Downing plans to offer premium services in July. Tout will offer two levels of premium service: one that lets interested members customize their pages, as well as add transitions and filters to their videos, and a second (coming out a few months later) that will create corporate accounts. Pricing for premium services hasn't been determined yet.

The next step for Tout, though, is an Android app. That should come next month. Downing is also focused on getting 1,000 influential Silicon Alley though leaders to use it, to give the platform momentum. For early adopters and those interested in how online video can go social, Tout is worth a try.

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