Accenture-Backed Applause Takes $35M Bow, Expands App Testing Service

Software is at the heart of most interactions between companies and their customers these days, from mobile apps to e-commerce, and beyond. And that has spawned a big industry around the testing of digital products.

The latest sign is a fresh $35 million investment in Applause, the Framingham, MA-based provider of digital testing services for 3,000-plus companies and organizations, including Google, Amazon, BMW, HBO, Rolex, and the American Red Cross. Other app-testing firms include Perfecto Mobile, UserTesting, and Testdroid.

“More and more, customer-facing digital experiences are the front door to brands, and the ability to research, test, and aggregate user feedback from people who mirror a company’s customers is a major competitive advantage for our customers,” says Applause CEO and co-founder Doron Reuveni in an e-mailed statement.

Applause, formerly known as uTest, has raised more than $115 million from investors since it was founded in 2007. The new round—the company’s Series F—was led by Credit Suisse and the venture arm of global services firm Accenture. Accenture has its own digital testing services business, and it formed a partnership with Applause more than a year ago, Reuveni says.

Applause says all of its previous investors contributed to the new round, including Goldman Sachs’s merchant banking division, QuestMark Partners, Scale Venture Partners, Longworth Venture Partners, Mesco, and MassVentures.

Applause works with a network of more than 250,000 professional testers located in 200-plus countries, who get paid for providing useful feedback about Applause’s customers’ digital products and for reporting glitches and other issues, Reuveni says. Applause paid out more than $25 million to its testing community in the past year, he adds.

“We work with our customers to scope their testing requirements, including devices, software configurations, tester demographics, physical location, and any specialized requirements,” Reuveni says. “We then invite community members that match those requirements to participate in projects and ongoing testing work.”

And the projects aren’t always as simple as poking around a website or exploring the features of a mobile app.

“We have tested ordering experiences for restaurants, retailers, pharmacy chains, and grocery stores that involve testers using a customer’s website and mobile app to order ahead of time before they physically pick up [goods] in store,” Reuveni says.

Other projects involve testing wearables and other connected devices. Applause’s partners have even test-driven apps—literally—for smart cars and snowmobiles, Reuveni says. (“Passengers performed the live interactions to maintain driver safety,” he adds.)

“The key takeaway is the digital experience happens anywhere and increasingly intersects with ‘real’ world experiences,” he says.

Most of Applause’s testers are software quality assurance professionals who have an average of seven years of experience, Reuveni says. But the funding will enable Applause to expand a new research service that helps companies get feedback “from their exact user base—even non-tech professionals,” he says. “That ‘person on the street’ feedback is part of what companies of all sizes want to get smarter about,” he adds.

Applause currently employs 302 people, mostly in North America and Europe. It intends to grow to 325 employees by early 2017, and expand to 400 people in 2018, Reuveni says.

Reuveni declined to disclose exact sales figures or whether Applause is profitable, but he says the company is growing annual revenue at a more than 40 percent clip.

Although Applause is eyeing an exit eventually, Reuveni says the company doesn’t “feel any undue pressure or artificial rush.”

“We’re building for the long run, and this funding enables us to continue to take the long view of building a large company,” he says.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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