Crashlytics, Led by Chang and Seibert, Looks to Win the Wild West of Mobile Bug Reporting

10/17/11Follow @gthuang

Wayne Chang is a man of mystery. Everyone knows him, yet no one knows him. Even his LinkedIn picture is mysterious. He’s a big-time hacker but not a big talker. He has a handful of secret tech projects and investments going at any time. He’s also been involved in a major lawsuit with the Winklevoss twins of Facebook fame, but he can’t talk about that either.

What he can talk about is that his new startup, Cambridge, MA-based Crashlytics, recently raised $1 million in seed financing, led by Flybridge Capital Partners and Baseline Ventures. A bunch of Boston-area angel investors also participated, including David Chang, Lars Albright, Chris Sheehan (an Xconomy board member), Ty Danco, Jennifer Lum, Roy Rodenstein, and Joe Caruso (all the usual suspects).

Crashlytics is trying to solve a big emerging problem in mobile-app development. When apps crash, the developers usually don’t know about it. They might get a crash log—or rather, thousands of crash logs—or get flooded by crash-report e-mails and be able to deal with it within a few weeks. (Apparently that’s how long Apple’s built-in system takes.) But that’s not fast enough when you have thousands of frustrated users, Chang says.

So what his startup does is takes those crash logs and distills them down to the top few issues the developer needs to fix—the most crucial ones. Crashlytics’ “secret sauce,” Chang says, is “we tell you the exact line of code where the issue happened,” as well as exactly what the user was doing on his or her phone when the app crashed.

Sound like magic? Well, for the whole thing to work, developers have to insert a line of code from Crashlytics into their app. But Chang emphasizes that the extra code is smaller than other crash-reporting options (and much easier to use). So far the company’s beta software works for Apple iOS apps, with a version for Android coming soon. Crashlytics is in talks with some very big companies, Chang says, and plans to use a freemium business model.

I asked Chang whether Apple knew about his startup yet. “I’m sure they do now,” he says.

Crashlytics just got started earlier this year. The five-person company’s founders are Chang and Jeff Seibert, the co-founder of Increo Solutions (which was bought by Box.net in 2009). Seibert has a fair bit of experience with Apple operating systems, having contributed to various Apple projects over the years. Chang, for his part, started his first company when he was 11 or 12, came of age during the dot-com years, and has worked on everything from Napster to Dropbox to i2hub, a collaboration network for colleges.

The two met over coffee at Voltage Café near Kendall Square, back in February. Seibert told Chang about a crash reporting problem he had encountered while fixing a bug at Box.net. Chang was hooked. So the two started working on their new mobile tech venture, with an eye toward cashing in on what has become a huge industry.

“We’re deep and passionate about the crash space,” Chang says. “We think [mobile software] is the 1998-99 of the Web.” There is “an explosion” in mobile tech going on, he adds, “but the infrastructure and tools are not as mature.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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