ToutApp, Back from Silicon Valley, Aims to Make Repetitive E-mails Easier
Fresh from a three-month stint in California, Tawheed Kader, founder and CEO of New York’s ToutApp, is back home to build the ranks of his startup and pursue his next round of funding. Last Wednesday he and the other graduates from this summer’s 500 Startups business accelerator program in Mountain View, CA, showed off their products at demo day. Now Kader is on the hunt for new talent to help his company continue its efforts to make e-mail more efficient.
ToutApp has already secured early stage funding, thanks in part to the accelerator program. “It’s not just for first time entrepreneurs,” Kader says. “It’s for any company looking for that extra edge in connections and mentorship.” He says one-year-old ToutApp raised a seed round, under $1 million, with participation from Owen Davis, managing director of NYC Seed; Dave McClure, founder of 500 Startups; Esther Dyson; and Eric Ries. “We are already making money,” Kader says. “We don’t need to raise a tremendous amount at this point.”
From late May through last week, Kader fine-tuned his company’s plans with the help of McClure and other mentors 500 Startups. On August 31, he and others from the summer session will present their companies at another demo day in New York.
Finding early stage funding was initially difficult in New York, Kader says, because the local startup community is still growing. He demoed his product at such local groups as NY Tech Meetup in an effort to to connect with potential investors, but he found more customers than backers. “There aren’t enough entrepreneurs who ended up getting a huge exit and are now investors that understand what is like in the early stages,” he says.
Kader spread the word about ToutApp at March’s South by Southwest conference in Austin, TX, and met McClure, who invited him into the accelerator program.
ToutApp is a Web-based service that lets subscribers create form letters they can personalize and send to multiple recipients. Kader says ToutApp is not bulk mail software; rather the users create templates for reaching out to specific types of contacts. For example, if the sender needs to send regular updates to product managers, the message can be created, personalized, and sent through ToutApp. The whole idea is to speed up the communication process when users are sending similar messages to many people, or to the same person over and over.
Kader, 28, has some experience founding, building, and exiting a company. He earned dual bachelor’s degrees in management and computer science in 2006 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute outside Albany, NY. While an undergrad, he and a group of friends launched a startup, HipCal, which let users create shared calendars for groups to keep track of important events and class assignments. “We took over a small room in our fraternity house to turn it into our office,” Kader.
Plaxo bought HipCal during Kader’s senior year and the team relocated to California after graduation. He remained there for two years before becoming an enterprise technologist for a hedge fund in Connecticut (Kader would not disclose its name). In 2010, he left the firm to develop a startup called Braintrust. The initial idea was to eliminate e-mail when communicating among tight-knit groups of people. But while developing Braintrust, Kader ironically built a tool to e-mail people faster, which led to ToutApp. “I was writing the same e-mail over and over to tell bloggers about what I was working on,” he says.
No longer out to kill off e-mail, Kader says his company can help it evolve as a tool for business users. He believes that attempts to trump the role of e-mail with other types of communication have little chance. “Google Wave and other social media tools that ignore e-mail and try to replace it inherently fail,” he says.
Kader moved from Connecticut to New York City in late 2010 and is using co-working space at WeWork in the SoHo neighborhood. He says ToutApp maintains its California presence at shared space furnished by 500 Startups.
ToutApp has a staff of four and is looking to hire engineers and a designer, Kader says. The service is available as an app for mobile devices. Users currently must visit the ToutApp website and send their messages through its servers though the responses land in their own inboxes. Kader says the company is developing a deeper level of integration that will let users to send ToutApp messages from their own e-mail programs such as Gmail and Outlook without visiting the website. “We need people that can figure out other systems and connect into Tout[App] really fast,” Kader says.