Just months after uTest’s 5th birthday, I’m excited to share that we’ve reached another major milestone. This morning we announced that we’ve closed a $43MM E Round, led by Goldman Sachs. This brings our total funds raised to more than $80MM across five rounds.
This announcement has far-ranging implications for our company. Coming ahead of our upcoming rebrand to Applause – and the expanded vision and offering that it entails – this funding serves as a major validation for uTest’s past and present and, even more so, for Applause’s future.
Where We’ve Been
Before we get to all that, let me take a paragraph to cover how we got to this point. We’ve come a long way since launching in August of 2008:
- Grown from 6 to 150+ employees
- Expanded geographically, establishing a strong presence in Boston, The Valley, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas
- Launched a reseller partner program, which already serves dozens of international markets
- Established in-the-wild testing as a critical part of launching great digital experiences, testing more than 30,000 new builds for more than 2,000 companies, including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, USA Today, Box, Runkeeper and more
- Acquired an enterprise-grade mobile SDK, launched Applause Analytics and won a mountain of awards
- And this past summer, our global tester community surpassed 100,000 members
How We’ll Use This Money
With a round this large, people want to know how the money will be invested, so let me explain. As the company rolls out our expanded Applause vision in the coming months, we’ll use the $43MM to:
- Expand in-the-wild testing services. We’re going to continue investing heavily in our real-world software testing services, including significant commitments to our functional, usability, security, load and localization testing solutions.
- Bring 360° app quality to companies around the world. We will usher in a new era of App Quality Management. The Applause offering will combine in-the-wild testing services with an integrated set of tools and analytics. This solution will enable all app stakeholders – including developers, QA, product, marketers and CEOs – to better understand users’ wants and real experiences, and to use that information to create apps that win.
- Grow distribution channels. We’re already in talks with strategic partners to bring 360⁰ app quality to the offerings of the ALM heavyweights. International expansion is happening through our reseller program – particularly in the EU, South American, and Asia-Pacific markets.
- Broaden “uTest”. We have big plans for little ol’ uTest. While we’re building the Applause offering and brand, we’re going to leverage the uTest brand as an open community that caters to testers. The uTest community will expand beyond paid projects to include training, certs, test tool reviews, career advice, job boards and events – and serve as the hub for professional testers and the profession of testing.
- M&A. We’ve got big ambitions to bring 360⁰ app quality to retailers, media firms, travel companies – to mobile apps, websites, wearables. But that doesn’t mean we need to build, or even own, every piece of this mammoth puzzle. We will look closely at build vs. buy vs. partner decisions in every area of the integrated solution, as well as how we bring it to market.
Why It Matters
I won’t lie; the $43M is a big deal in expediting and amplifying our plans. But there’s something that’s just as important from my perspective: a round this large, and from a leader like Goldman Sachs, demonstrates how vital user-defined app quality has become. Brands are inexorably tied to their apps. With switching costs vanishing, users are no longer loyal to mainstream brands if those brands’ apps don’t earn that loyalty (and dare we say, applause?). That shopping app crashed mid-purchase? You’re a few clicks away from their top competitor’s app… but not before dinging the first retailer with a scathing one-star review for letting you down.
Users have a booming voice that determines which apps and brands win, and which ones lose. So companies must choose: delight users with every build of every app in their entire brand experience… or leave it to chance. The first path turns users into evangelists who do your marketing for you via social and app stores… the second path means those same users will render your best marketing efforts moot.
Like it or not, “app quality” is defined by users and must incorporate external signals from in-the-wild testing, crash reporting, user feedback and user sentiment analysis. And no matter how big or small your company is today, managing that app quality is more important than ever to the integrity and market share of your brand.
Where We’re Headed Next
Chipotle. We’re going to Chipotle.
Actually, we were incredibly optimistic about our place in the apps universe before this funding, and now we’re feeling even more confident and energized. This validates our larger vision as the apps economy continues to grow and evolve, and solidifies uTest (soon to be Applause) as the provider of 360° app quality.
With all that said, in the past few days dozens of journalists and analysts have asked us about a future IPO. And while this news brings us one big milestone closer to that possibility, we’ve always operated with a capital “W” win as our goal. This funding – along with the commitments from our previous investors, customers, testers, and our amazing employees – is a sign of trust and commitment to what we all started building together five years ago. So I want to say a sincere “thank you” to all those groups for believing in us, for trusting in us, and for partnering so closely with us.
There’s much more ahead. We’re just getting started.