“All software has errors.” A truer sentence was never spoken, as any techie would tell you. And these errors form a bottleneck in the development cycle and cost a lot in time and resources to fix. But with increasing amounts of companies moving to the cloud, one Berlin-based startup believes it can offer a solution by way of identifying and fixing those problems at an earlier stage.
TestCloud provides crowdsourced software testing, harnessing the power of its community of testers to take a close look at all kinds of software, websites and mobile apps under real conditions. Zalando, Qype and Fashion5 are already amongst the startup’s customers.
The testers are paid for each bug they find (from 50 cents for a spelling mistake to €10 for a security-critical problem) and come from all walks of life with degrees of knowledge from all across the spectrum – a diversity that is vital to the service they provide, testCloud co-founder and CSO Thomas Grüderich told Silicon Allee: “The (testing) crowd needs to be diverse. It ranges from the housewife to the professional with ten or 20 years experience in quality assurance but with a passion for testing and technology who wants to earn a bit of money and become part of a testing community – and everything in between.”
The service is aimed at cloud-based solutions or companies who are migrating to the cloud. Customer software includes apps, websites, e-commerce platforms and mobile. The customers themselves, meanwhile, range from “the little startups who just had an idea and a little prototype, all the way up to the large corporations, such as DAX-Konzerne (companies listed on Germany’s main stock market).”
The company was founded in August 2011 and launched in November, winning its first client just two days later. It is now based in a Friedrichshain office, and harnesses the experience of San Francisco-based serial entrepreneur Frederik Fleck and his Richmond View Ventures, which is the initial investor. The 14-strong team is led by Thomas and his two co-founders, Jan Schwenzien and Carsten Lebtig.
The time before the launch was spent developing technology allowing testers to report bugs and customers to either work on the testCloud platform or export it to their own project management or bug tracking tool.
“It’s disrupting the typical in-house testing,” Thomas added. “We speak to large corporations and ask how they are testing software, and a lot of them say with interns who come in twice a week.” That does not always provide satisfactory answers, he argues, something that is achieved by putting the testing in the hands of the exact people the software is aimed at.
“If they need specifics – say some security testers, or some Android testers with Ice Cream Sandwich version this and that, we can provide them. We can have a conversation with a customer today and start a test cycle in the evening.”
Overall, testCloud has around 100 customers and 3,000 registered testers, of whom nearly half are very active. The service was launched with a focus on the German-speaking DACH region – companies like Zalando, Thomas says, are more interested in having software tested by people are who living in the target market: “A functional test needs to reflect the actual conditions of what it would be like, not of a tester somewhere in India or Pakistan or any other country, where they might have different settings, different connections, different tools running and so on.”
Ultimately, however, testCloud is thinking global. Most competition comes from internal testing, which is not always accurate enough.The fragmented nature of Android devices, for example, make exhaustive internal testing difficult.
Traditional outsource testing providers, meanwhile, according to Thomas, do “a lot of white testing, but not what we would call outside of the lab for proper in the field testing under real conditions.”
That, he says, leaves a big gap for testCloud to exploit.
“We don’t want to take away someone’s job or abilities, we want to enhance, be an extended arm of the QA. So do your automated testing, do your internal testing, but for the other stuff, you can rely on an on-demand testing provider like testCloud.”
Growth for a platform like testCloud should be fairly exponential – the more testers there are, the more attractive it is to potential clients. The question might well be whether it can maintain a cost-effectiveness for its customers.