uTest Closes $13MM Series C Investment

When you’re building a startup, there are good news days and bad news days.  Sometimes the good news comes in the form of a killer ad campaign or winning a new customer or a glowing article in the New York Times.  And if you’re really focused and fortunate, sometimes the good news comes in the form of a $13 million dollar influx of cash from one of the hottest VCs in the Valley, which dramatically increases the valuation of your company.

In the past two years, we’ve had more than our share of good news.  And today, we’re announcing that we’ve closed a $13MM C round.  This round was led by Scale Ventures, and all our earlier investors participated fully — including Longworth Partners, Egan-Managed Capital and Mesco Ltd.

This is one of the largest-ever investments made in a crowdsourcing company, which re-affirms what our customers already know: uTest’s in-the-wild testing helps them launch apps that their users love.  In all, uTest has now raised $20MM across three rounds since late 2007.

Use of Money: So what are we going to do with this pile of money that our wise and wonderful investors have entrusted us with?  Well, we initially considered a number of options, including:

  • Giving free iPads to our top 26,000 testers… forget it guys, it ain’t gonna happen!
  • Purchasing four Superbowl ads @ $3MM per… nah, not our style
  • Running one Bug Battle per week for the next 62 1/2 years… interesting, but doesn’t seem quite right
  • Splurging for fancier office signage than what we have today… it’d make the Boston winter more pleasant for our employees, but meh
  • Two words: uTest blimp… nope, we’re scared of heights.  And, oh, the humanity

Actual Use of Money: In the past 18 months, uTest has seen astounding growth and adoption by customers ranging from startups to enterprises to universities.  We’ve seen massive growth in mobile app testing, as well as in the social, gaming and retail industries.  So while the aforementioned investments sound fun, what we’re really planning to do is dramatically increase our investments in:

  • Expanding our newly launched usability testing & load testing services
  • Moving into new service categories that help companies launch great apps
  • Turning our testing platform & APIs into the industry standard for managing internal & external testing teams
  • Engaging our community of 30,000 professional testers
  • Growing mind share & market share of our in-the-wild testing services

A Word of Thanks: So much has changed since our August 2008 launch. We’ve expanded into mobile app testing (now our fastest growing category); we’ve added load testing and usability testing; we’ve added 20,000+ new testers; we’ve acquired hundreds of customers and run thousands of test cycles.  Well, none of that would have been possible without a few key groups:

  • Our employees who are  fanatical in their belief in our vision and relentless in their execution
  • Our investors who offer sage advice, steady guidance, financial resources and the freedom to learn and grow
  • Our customers who, like us, believe that in-the-wild testing compliments in-the-lab testing to create apps that users love
  • Our testers who are passionate about testing, about uTest, and about helping to improve app quality

A Bonus Gift for Entrepreneurs: This is a tough market for entrepreneurs to raise money and build a business. Obviously, this has been an area of focus for us over the past few months, and we were fortunate to get so much interest from the VC community that we had multiple options to choose from.  So we thought it would be cool and useful to share all that we have learned.

Thus, we’ll be writing an in-depth post on the process of raising VC funding in the current market.  And we’re going to answer any questions that come from entrepreneurs, angels, journalists or others.

So ask away… no holds barred.  What do you want to know about the process of finding, pitching and evaluating VCs?  Fire your questions our way by commenting on this post, emailing us, or dropping us a tweet @uTest.  We’ll gather the questions and hook our top execs up to a lie detector machine and force them to answer!

Version 3.0.5 – Better Testing Coverage & Faster Test Cycle Creation

Didn’t we just introduce something new, like last week? Don’t our engineers sleep? Surely we’re not already rolling out more new stuff for our testers and customers?

Well it appears we do have an update, and this one is pretty sweet. If you remember, we launched a whole new uTest experience back in April with version 3.0 of our testing platform. Since then, our product team has been watching and listening to both our testers and customers. We cheer when things work well, but we also take good notes when we see our users struggle.

Today’s update is all about fixing some of those nagging usability issues and making our user experience smoother. Some of the changes are big and some are small, but all of them were inspired by you! Let’s take a look at a few of the things that have changed:

More Effective Testing Coverage
One thing we’ve heard about creating a test cycle is that specifying testing coverage should be easier. The problem is we have so much diversity in our community – with close to 30,000 testers, hundreds of thousands of devices, dozens of operating systems, and several hundred countries and geographic areas. Customers had to do some digging to make sense of all this choice and get exactly the coverage they needed.

Today we’ve made some big improvements in this area. The first change is that you’ll be able to search for countries by global region, so if you’re just interested in European countries, you won’t have to find them in a huge list of every country in the world.

The second change is that we’ve also added quick search boxes that will help you narrow down any field to exactly the coverage choices you need. Whether you want to test your app with the Motorola Droid in the United States on Verizon, or on the Apple iPhone 4 in France on Orange Telecom, you’ll be able to get your test cycle started in a snap.

New Test Cycle Creation Wizard
But it’s not just coverage selection that’s changed. We’ve redesigned our test cycle creation process, simplifying some steps and improving the layout in others. We think that creating a good test cycle is the most important thing a customer can do to ensure testing success, and this update should make this process much smoother.

This new process also means changes for testers who are viewing the test cycle. For example, customers and testers will both appreciate the new Scope and Instructions page that is shorter, simpler, and cleaner.

All the Rest
There are dozens of little things that have improved as well. Here are a few of them:

  • You can now easily distinguish read and unread bugs and messages. Unread bugs and messages will be highlighted, while read bugs and messages will be grayed.
  • If you use a bug tracking system, newly exported bugs will appear much cleaner and easier to read.
  • Both testers and customers can now choose to stay signed-in to the platform without having to reenter their password each time.

Do you have an idea for our future product releases? uTest community members can join our tester forums and check out our Platform Feedback section. Customers can contact their project manager directly or drop us a line.

Mobile App World, London: October 19-20, 2010

Apps! Apps! And more apps! As the summer starts winding down here at uTest, we’ve been able to take a step back and a closer look at the big trends emerging all around us. What has been most apparent is the tremendous spike in mobile app testing needs. From top marketing agencies to retail giants to social gaming startups, our customers are developing more mobile apps to grow (or define) their businesses than ever before.

According to Game Developer Research, 25% of game developers are now making mobile games – that’s up from a mere 12% in 2009!

In addition, a survey conducted by iGR found that more than half (53%) of US mobile developers are building apps for Apple’s iPhone OS. BlackBerry was the next most popular, followed by Android and Windows Mobile.

In response to this incredible momentum, this year marks the launch of Mobile App World 2010, where global leaders in mobile tech and app development and entrepreneurs will gather to network and learn about the latest developments and innovations.

uTest will be among the outstanding line-up of more than 40 speakers, which includes Google, Microsoft, Ericsson, Orange Global and the BBC, who will be discussing the future of mobile apps. Shoot us a note if you’ll be around!

Note: If you’re looking for some cool, new mobile apps, check out Mobile App World’s August Apps Of The Month. You may spot a uTester’s favorite app! :)

5 Must-Have Apps For Your iPhone 4

As the new iPhone 4 hits stores in Israel later this month, more and more attention will be given to the iPhone’s most remarkable feature: APPS! Of course, apps are one of the primary reasons for the latest mobile phone frenzy that has taken the industry by storm. They have revolutionized the cell phone into a portable computing powerhouse. As mobile phones move away from simple communication devices, apps are transforming the mobile phone into a multipurpose tool that can affect every facet of our lives.

So with that in mind, here are the top 5 apps that you must have on your new iPhone 4:

  1. Ha’aretz: Stay connected with what’s happening in the world around you! Receive the latest breaking news and headline stories in real time with this app as it happens in Israel and throughout the world.
  2. iTranslate: Konichiwa….. Salaam……. Ariverdechi. Translating words from Hebrew is a breeze with this unique app that lets you translate words and sentences from over 50 languages. Impress your friends and loved ones the next time you order something from French restaurant or when your order in Chinese.
  3. Aroundme: Find anything from dairy restaurants to gas stations. This app uses GPS technology to find your location and then lists the nearest locations of your search. Your travel experiences will never be the same as everything you could want or need to find using a map or the Internet is now at your fingertips wherever you go.
  4. Yad2: From homes to cars to LCD TV’s, you can buy anything your heart desires with this app on Israel’s most famous online 2nd hand store. This app lets you scroll through the thousands of 2nd hand items for sale with a simple to use GUI.
  5. Israel Money: This app will allow you to make calls from your iPhone in Israel to over 20 countries overseas with absolutely zero charges. There are no charges! No commitments! And no registration!

What’s your favorite iPhone app? How has it helped your daily life? Share with the community which apps are changing the way we use our phones.

(This post was written by Hillel Hurwitz, Community & Content Manager, at Blonde 2.0.)

Version 3.0.4 (The Sequel) – Introducing Social Sign-In

A couple weeks ago, we rolled out v3.0.4 of our platform. And now, after a little extra time in the oven, we’ve launched another feature designed to make it quicker & easier to access your uTest account.

Social Sign-In
Let’s say you’re like millions of other people around the world and you have an account on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. And let’s also say you’re tired of keeping track of passwords, remembering to sign-in everyday to all the websites you like, and are yearning for something simpler. Starting today, we have a solution for you, at least when it comes to your uTest account (we can’t speak for anyone else). Now you can log in to the uTest platform using the credentials from your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts.

Setting up this linkage is simple:

  1. Get started by visiting our platform and clicking the button for your favorite social network(s).
  2. Then sign in to your social network and confirm the connection.
  3. And that’s pretty much it. The next time you visit the uTest platform, just click that same button and you’re in.

Enjoy!

Version 3.0.4 – Smarter Tester Selection, New Bug Trackers, and More

For the past several months, we’ve been knocking off some highly sought-after platform features, and v3.0.4 is no exception. And with this latest release, we’ve made it even easier to choose the perfect testers for your project and integrate with more of the top bug-tracking systems.

Easier Tester Selection

When our customers create a new test cycle, we want the process to be as simple as possible. But we also want to put the highest degree of power and precision in their hands when it comes to building their testing team. One of the more common feature requests we’ve heard is to make it even easier to select testers for private test cycles. Our product crew has heard your cries, and we’re pleased to introduce a dramatic overhaul of the tester selection process when creating a test cycle.

We realized that every customer has a different set of needs when it came to finding exactly the right set of testers for their product. So we made it easy to search within testers and handpick the best candidates. After a test cycle has launched, the tester selection will even tell you which invited testers have accepted your testing invitation. Need more testers in a certain region? Finding and adding more will be a snap. Check it out!

More Bug Tracker Integration
More and more companies are using bug tracking systems, and we’ve long made it easy to move bugs from uTest into several popular systems. Until recently, we’ve supported Bugzilla, Jira, and Rally. With this release, we’re adding support for Mantis. We’ve also added support for Jira Studio, and we’ve improved our support for Rally. Lastly, our engineers have even built integration with the bug tracking systems of some of our biggest customers.

Is your favorite bug tracking system not yet supported? Let us know, and we’ll add it to our list.

More Handsets for Tester Profiles
If there’s one thing that’s true in this world, it’s that gadget makers never stop making new gadgets, and that gadget lovers never stop buying them. We’ve added a whole bunch of new devices to our database, including the iPhone 4, the iPad, and more. If you are a tester who has the latest and greatest mobile phone or tablet, make sure you update your tester profile with that information so we can assign you projects.

All the Rest
That’s not all! We’ve also worked on a couple of other smaller, but still important features:

  • Search for test cycles by their ID
  • Misspelled words are now highlighted in text boxes
  • Dozens of bug fixes and behind-the-scenes improvements

Have a great idea for our future product releases? uTest community members can join our tester forums and check out our Platform Feedback section. Customers can contact their project manager directly or drop us a line.

Top 20 Crowdsourcing Tweeps

Whether you’re a crowdsourcing critic or devotee, it’s worth hearing all the angles from the experts and from those who have built crowdsourcing business models. Check out the Top 20 Crowdsourcing Tweeps (experts and companies) to follow on Twitter below (in no particular order). Also, here are a few recent articles to hopefully spark even more debate — The Huffington Post’s Does Crowdsourcing Threaten Your Job (or Offer New Opportunity)?, Entrepreneur Magazine’s Crowdsourcing: Opportunity or Time Suck?, and Network World’s Could designer bras be a natural fit for crowdsourcing?.

  1. Jeff Howe, @crowdsourcing (coined term crowdsourcing, quiet this summer)
  2. LiveOps, @liveops
  3. Neil Robertson, @nielr1 (co: @Trada)
  4. John Winsor, @jtwinsor (co: @VictorsnSpoils)
  5. Ross Kimbarovsky, @rosskimbarovsky (co: @crowdspring)
  6. Dwayne Spradlin, @InnoCentiveCEO (co: @innocentive)
  7. Tim Thomas, @imstarboard (co: @localmotors)
  8. Community Roundtable, @jimstorer & @rhappe (co: @TheCR)
  9. 99 Designs, @99designs
  10. CrowdFlower, @crowdflower
  11. uTest, @uTest (shameless self plug ;-))
  12. Chokha, @chokha
  13. Mike Martoccia, @mmartoccia
  14. Top Coder, @TCJim (co: @_TopCoder_)
  15. Threadless, @threadless
  16. Chaordix, @chaordix
  17. Peter Lamotte, @peterlamotte
  18. Genius Rocket, @GeniusRocket
  19. SmartSheet, @crowdwork & @mcolacurcio
  20. Tongal, @tongal

Update! Apologies for those I may have missed. Here are more recommendations straight from the community: @crowdsourcecap, @ArticleOne, @crowdsourcerisk, @fergusdyersmith, @OpenRunway, @crowdsourcery

More can be found on our actual Crowdsourcing Twitter list. So, who do you follow on Twitter to find the best crowdsourcing advice and breaking news? Did I miss anyone? Please let us know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

To Cert or Not To Cert: THAT Is The Question

“Certifications are a farce – they simply test your ability to cram for an exam,” cries one tester in a recent uTest forums exchange. “No way – certifications are extremely valuable and establish credibility to the testing world,” replies another tester.

And it goes on and on… As a witness to the ongoing debate, it’s clear that there may never be a meeting of the minds when it comes to certifications. It’s certainly been thought-provoking and entertaining to read through the vicious cycle of pros and cons supporting both camps. Here are several to spark more debate!

Pro-Certifications Camp:

  • They provide a base level of knowledge for those interested in the field, including terminology, processes, etc.
  • They help testing newbies get their foot in the door of the testing world
  • Certain organizations prefer to (or only) hire certified testers
  • Passing a certification means that one is serious about testing
  • Having a certification differentiates you from the crowd of software testers

Anti-Certifications Camp:

  • Certifications bodies take in top money to create certs that simply test your ability to cram for an exam and at best possess knowledge – as opposed to your problem solving skills and how to test
  • Passing such exams does not prove anything about testing skills & should not get your foot in the door for a job
  • Organizations that prefer certified testers are simply lazy about their interviewing process – looking for a piece of paper or label on the resume vs. looking at the candidates skill set
  • Passing a certification simply indicates that you are willing to take the time and money to complete a task
  • There are so many certified testers – so what differentiates one from another? More advanced certs? Where’s the limit?

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Version 3.0.3 – Attachment Viewer, Interactive Test Cycle Reports and More

New Englanders aren’t known for doing well in hot weather, and a recent heat wave has kept us all inside in the air conditioning. Since our engineers can’t go outside without melting or vaporizing, they’ve been inside keeping busy creating some cool new features. Let’s take a look:

Attachment Viewer
Our testers love uploading attachments with their bug reports.  Whether it’s a screenshot or a video, testers know that an attachment can make a bug report easier for our customers to understand and visualize.

Until now, customers have had to download every attachment individually and then open them on their desktops. To make this process faster and easier, we have launched a nifty new attachment viewer that works inside our platform. Now customers and testers can view video and image attachments with a single click, toggle between them easily, and download the ones you want to keep. And for non-multimedia files like spreadsheets and documents, we still make it easy to download the files and open them from your desktop.

Take a look at this short 30 second video showing off the new attachment viewer:
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This video requires a more recent version of the Adobe Flash Player to display. Please update your version of the Adobe Flash Player.

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Mobile Developers: Addicted to Beta Testing?

Safe to say that mobile app development has greatly outpaced mobile app testing over the last few years. In other words, while the applications and platforms have seen tremendous technological advances (iPhone 4 bugs notwithstanding) the same cannot be said of mobile testing methodologies.

Case in point: The majority of mobile app developers remain overwhelmingly reliant on internal beta testing.

Here with proof is VisionMobile, who recently published a fascinating report on the growing mobile app ecosystem – a must-read for anyone involved in the space (developers, marketers, users, etc). From a QA point of view, the report further establishes that although testing innovations will ALWAYS trail those of development, the gap need not be so wide.

Here’s an excerpt that sums the whole thing up:

Internal beta testing is the most popular technique used by the vast majority (nearly 70 percent) of respondents, with beta testing with users and peer reviewing the next most popular techniques. Only 20 percent of respondents use focus groups or research of their own. Overall, North American developers are somewhat more sophisticated in their application planning, with 97 percent using beta testing as a standard part of application development and with broader use of a portfolio of planning techniques as well.

Yet, small development firms have limited means today to beta test and peer review their applications with a crosssection of representative users. Given the hundreds of thousands of mobile apps, we believe that efficient (crowd-sourced) testing of apps in a global market of users is considerably under-utilized. This presents an opportunity for the few solution providers in this segment – Mob4Hire and uTest.com, for example – but also for network operators, who can generate a channel for testing applications with end users, and provide an open feedback support system back to developers.

Other notable findings included:

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