Google Leads Mabl’s $20M Series B as Software Testing Deals Heat Up

Dan Belcher and Izzy Azeri sold their last startup, Stackdriver, to Google. Now, Google’s venture capital arm has backed the entrepreneurial duo’s latest company, Mabl.

Boston-based Mabl said Tuesday it has pulled in $20 million in a Series B funding round led by GV (formerly Google Ventures). CRV and Amplify Partners also contributed to the round; those two firms invested in Mabl’s Series A deal, which was announced in February.

They’re all betting that Belcher and Azeri (pictured above) are building another hit enterprise software company. Stackdriver helped businesses monitor the performance of their cloud-based applications and services. After raising about $15 million in venture capital and working on the business for less than two years, Stackdriver was sold to Google in 2014 for an undisclosed price. Azeri and Belcher left Google last year to form Mabl, which is tackling a different problem in enterprise tech—trying to automate more of the process of testing software.

Despite the GV investment, Belcher says he and Azeri aren’t gunning for another (relatively) quick sale to Google, or another big firm.

“The end result of Mabl, whether it’s an IPO or whether it makes sense for Mabl to be part of a larger company, that’s a decision that we’ll discuss years down the road,” Belcher says in a phone interview.

Still, it’s fun to speculate who might pursue the startup if it proves itself in the market. Google, of course, seems a viable candidate, as it continues building out its cloud computing and software development tools. The tech giant’s competitors in those areas, such as Amazon and Microsoft, could also be in the mix. Or perhaps Mabl will prove attractive to companies such as Atlassian, GitHub, and CloudBees, which might want to expand their products for developing and testing software. CodeShip, which was acquired earlier this year by CloudBees, was an early Mabl customer, Xconomy previously reported.

For now, Belcher says the Mabl team is focused on “solving this problem around helping software teams innovate faster by removing the [quality assurance] bottleneck.” He adds, “We’re committed to building the next great company in this space in Boston.”

Other local companies offering software testing and related tools include Applause and SmartBear Software, which were both acquired last year. Then there’s XebiaLabs, which raised a $100 million funding round earlier this year. Other recent deals in this sector include a $31 million investment in San Francisco-based CircleCI, a $31 million round for San Mateo, CA-based Applitools, and a $25 million investment in San Francisco-based Rainforest QA.

They’re all trying to help businesses speed up their software development and testing, as companies move to a “continuous integration and delivery” model in which they are constantly iterating and shipping new code. Increasingly, Mabl and its competitors are tapping machine-learning techniques to try and automate more software engineering tasks.

“It’s a difficult journey in the enterprise to go from traditional development cycles to continuous integration and continuous delivery,” Belcher says. “The last mile in that problem is automated testing. Over the next 12 to 18 months, expect Mabl to focus on enabling that step.”

Today the company announced several new product capabilities aimed specifically at the needs of large enterprises, including features designed to meet strict cybersecurity requirements and to make Mabl’s tools more versatile. The startup plans to invest in product development and hiring across all functions. Belcher says the plan is to add at least 10 people to its team of 30-plus employees (most of them are pictured below).

It’s notable that he and Azeri haven’t had to spend much time fundraising for Mabl. Belcher says investors committed to putting money into the startup before it was even officially formed. “We hadn’t even decided what market we were going to focus on,” Belcher says of the Series A deal it previously raised.

Mabl wasn’t actively trying to raise a Series B round when discussions began, and the company still had about $5 million in the bank from its first funding round, Belcher says. He and Azeri had gotten to know Karim Faris—who led GV’s Mabl investment and has joined the startup’s board—over the past couple of years. Faris was one of Mabl’s first users, deploying the startup’s tools to find bugs on GV’s website, Belcher says. As demand for Mabl’s product began to grow, GV expressed interest in backing the company, he says.

“The biggest thing with these two rounds of funding is they allowed Izzy and [me] to not spend months doing the [investor] road show that often you have to do” for rounds of this size, Belcher says. “Those were critical months for the company where we were able to spend all our time on building the right product and taking it to market.”

Mabl team. Photo courtesy of Mabl.

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

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