Australian startup snapshot: Bugwolf

Enterprise and startup partnerships could address startup funding challenge, says founder Ash Conway

Bugwolf co-founder Ash Conway. Source: About.me

Bugwolf co-founder Ash Conway. Source: About.me

Bugwolf is a Melbourne startup that provides beta testers for enterprises and app developers seeking to speed their software to market.

The pitch

Before starting Bugwolf, founder Ash Conway worked as a designer during the early part of his career and then in business development for large tech companies, where he noticed a great amount of “pain around software testing.”

“And then as I spoke to more and more customers about it, it was obviously an area that was challenging for them,” he said.

“It’s really around that end user acceptance testing where it can sometimes take significant time to go through that cycle before you release a product to market.”

Bugwolf seeks to accelerate testing by providing beta testers sourced from around the world. By outsourcing to Bugwolf, companies also bring in a “fresh set of eyes” that often can detect problems that might otherwise be missed, he said.

Bugwolf complements companies’ existing automated test processes, he added.

After an initial meeting with the client, Bugwolf assembles a team of beta testers and kicks off the testing cycle.

“We go through coaching throughout the cycle to make sure we’re focussing on the right areas of the application with the team, and then we’re curating the results and providing that back quite quickly.”

Most cycles are run over the weekend, he said. The work is done through a mix of in-person, on the Internet and over the phone.

“We don’t necessarily need to be face-to-face, but where we can be, we like to go and have a chat and really understand what some of their challenges are.”

Conway said he has hundreds of testers signing up every year from around the world. Bugwolf vets the testers and selects a small percentage to join the startup’s “elite team.”

The testers operate as subcontractors. “It’s a full contingent workforce essentially, where they get to work when they choose and pick the projects they want to work on.”

Conway came up with the idea for Bugwolf in August 2012 and went live with the service in February 2013.

Funding and selling

Conway has completely self-funded Bugwolf. “We’ve won some business [since launch] so that’s helped us continue innovating and finding new business.”

Conway said he has thought about seeking additional funding, “but I have sort of fallen in love with the concept of bootstrapping a bit, now that I’ve come so far with it.”

“We’re definitely at a good stage of the business where we’ve worked out a lot of the things I wanted to work out before I did take that next step and seek funding.”

Bugwolf customers include mobile app developers such as Palringo, as well as a global mid-sized brand and a large enterprise, Conway said.

Conway described a “tough slog” initially pitching customers, but said Bugwolf is starting to receive inquiries from clients referred from existing customers.

In addition, for the past few months Bugwolf has been working with IBM both internally and with some of their customers, he said. Conway also recently spoke on an IBM panel in Melbourne in conjunction with a report on the importance of the cloud to startups.

“The focus for us is to keep building our customer base. We’re really interested in doing that not only locally but on a global scale.”

A “logical step” will be to set up a presence in the US, he said. “The team that would be over there would be very much customer-focussed.”

Startup scene

While the Australian startup ecosystem is young, Conway said he’s optimistic about its future.

More partnerships between big organisations and startups could help address the startup funding challenge in Australia, said Conway.

“If there was a lot more cooperation, a lot more collaboration between startups and large enterprises, I actually think there would be potentially less of a problem around early-stage funding.”

“That provides a really big opportunity for startups to get their products and services in front of a global organisation with a global sales channel.”

A greater number of big companies are starting to engage startups, including IBM and Microsoft, he said.

In addition, Conway predicted the Australian startup scene will soon see money coming in from successful startups like Atlassian and 99 Designs.

“Even though things are going pretty well here from a startup perspective, I think the best is yet to come.”

Previous startup snapshots:

Vimcore
Gym PocketGuide
Peepable
Shiny Things
The Search Party
Bluethumb
CoinJar

Adam Bender covers startup and business tech issues for Techworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Techworld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

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