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App Tracker uTest Raises $43M From Goldman Sachs For Future Acquisitions And IPO

Jan 14 2014, 6:36am CST | by

 
 
 

A startup known for its mobile application testing, uTest, has more than doubled its funding to date as it pursues acquisitions and an eventual IPO, raising $43 million in a late-stage Series E round led by Goldman Sachs.

The five-year-old startup, which tests applications in different territories and monitors their quality for clients like Google, Microsoft, Rolex and USA Today, had previously raised $37 million total, most recently a $17 million round in December, 2011. With this Series E round, Goldman Sachs joins existing investors Egan-Managed Capital, Longworth Venture Partners, Mass Ventures, Mesco Ltd. and QuestMark Partners, all of whom returned in the round. Goldman Sachs managing director David Campbell joins uTest’s board.

The choice of lead investor is a signal that uTest is looking to expand its role in the app-making process through its own acquisitions before testing conditions for entering the public market, says cofounder and CEO Doron Reuveni. “The way we want to go is IPO,” says Reuveni. “Picking Goldman Sachs is a signal for coming years.”

First up for uTest is a major rebranding the company will carry out at the end of the first quarter, renaming the company and its brand Applause. uTest will remain as a community name, but Reuveni says his company has outgrown the name that has tied it directly to app testing, the company’s traditional strength. uTest employs over 100,000 part-time testers in 200 countries for its service, but is looking to move more into the management of the apps as well, keeping track of feedback and user sentiment–with good performance earning a brand “applause,” hence the new name.

At its cheapest, uTest appeals to entrepreneurs and small businesses by offering its basic tools for an annual subscription of around $20,000 or $30,000. That scales up to its large clients–mostly in software (Google, Microsoft), retail (Walmart, L’Oreal, Tesco) and media (Fox, HBO, NBC)–who pay about $100,000 per app for anywhere from two to 20 apps. The companies grosses revenue in the “high tens of millions” off 2,000 clients, according to Reuveni.

uTest’s CEO has his expansion plan all mapped out, he says. The FORBES Most Promising company is looking to 2014 to transition to the Applause brand and expand the company’s non-testing offerings more tied to user experience and feedback, as well as building out its reseller program outside the United States. Then 2015 is uTest’s planned year to commit to going public, with Reuveni currently expecting to hit he market in late 2015 or early 2016–ideally without raising any further funding.

Despite the company’s wish to be known for more than just testing however, Reuveni still falls upon that testing core when pressed about what makes uTest’s offering unique. “With so many testers connected, we can build teams in clicks and hours. If I’m HBO and I have a big release and I want to test three markets with 200 testers, only we can do that.”

So while you can expect to hear Reuveni and his team push the conversation toward the “applause” tracking, don’t expect the Boston-area startup to forget that its biggest market advantage remains with testing.

“No one has built the next-generation Mercury [Interactive] for the app economy,” says Reuveni, invoking the Web 1.0 software performance tester bought by HP in 2006. “Our customers are deploying on a continuous basis, and the software in apps has such a huge impact on brand equity.”

uTest’s pitch at its simplest is not to be Apple, needlessly dragged down by Apple Maps, Reuveni says. Goldman Sachs, eying the next great enterprise tech IPO, seems to be buying in.

Follow me on ForbesTwitter and Facebook for more tech coverage in startups, ad tech, enterprise software and venture capital.

Source: Forbes

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