TellMe’s Real Killer App: Pre-IPO Buzz?

While TellMe’s 411-like service sounds swell, it doesn’t seemingly do anything important that freeware tools like DirAssist don’t already do on my Palm. So why all the buzz for a directory assistance product?

Good question. As Josh Jaffe points out, the company has received more than $230m in venture money since 1999, and oodles of VCs are out there barking for an exit. I’m sure they will all be more than a little gleeful to see the front-page treatment being accorded it on Techmeme and elsewhere today for some relatively inconsequential news.

Let’s just call it what it is: Carefully engineered Pre-IPO buzz.


  1. ummm, before you compare TellMe to a freeware quality text tool on a Palm you oughta at least take a look at the website to realize that it’s a VXML powered voice interface to, among other things, 411 data. It’s a carrier class platform that can do things like power a call centers front end VRU/IVR platform.
    Comparing these two platforms is like comparing the SMS capability on your phone with Outlook. Sure, they both send text based messages but beyond that it’s not much of a comparison.

  2. As a former Tellme employee, I’d love for this to be pre-IPO buzz, but I have my doubts. For now, I’m taking this for what it appears to be: another attempt by Tellme to develop a consumer market for voice services. I’m wishing them much success…

  3. Tellme about it. $230M invested in a glorified Moviefone service. Finding a gracefull exit for this thing is a point of honor for the VC community.

  4. Downloading the entire TellMe app and monkeying around with it is far less intuitive than making a 411 call — maybe a few tech-savvy people will use it but if the rest of the population wants a number or address and wants the info to be free, they’ll just call 1-800-free411.

  5. Michael A says:

    TellMe is a pioneer that outlived its most storied competitor, General Magic. Sometimes a company has to wait until both the market and the technology are ready before they can be successful. After more than a decade they are now profitable and generating over $100 million in sales, as a pure enterprise play. The consumer market is finally ready for VXML applications at a price point they can afford. TellMe did what any smart compnay does looking for an exit…fake the IPO to increase value and sell to a big compnay that historically overpays. Now watch as Microsoft breaks it up and screws it up.