Web Startup Experiment Engine Turns to Crowd to Ease A/B Testing

Constantly testing and optimizing your website to turn more visitors into customers is one of those things everyone knows they should be doing. But companies often lack the time, expertise, and money for it.

Experiment Engine, a startup in Austin, TX, would like to make it easier for companies to do A/B testing on design changes to their websites to improve conversion rates. Not by offering new conversion rate optimization software—co-founder and CEO Claire Vo knows there are plenty of widely used programs such as Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer that help with that. Instead, the year-old company is trying to build a community of testing experts who will do it all for you.

The company announced last month it has raised a $1 million seed round. Investors include Founder Collective, the Houston-based Mercury Fund, Indeed.com co-founder Rony Kahan, and BuildASign CEO Dan Graham. Experiment Engine also was a member of last summer’s Techstars Austin program.

Vo says she and co-founder EJ Lawless have spent years working on A/B testing for a variety of companies large and small. They saw that testing made a major difference to a company’s bottom line, but even the most sophisticated ones had trouble running enough tests. The reason why? It’s complicated to do effective testing.

“It’s not a technology issue. There are great tools out there,” Vo says. “What it really is is a resource and expertise issue. To do A/B testing effectively, you need UX designers, and product people, and front-end developers on top of all that technology.”

To solve that problem, Experiment Engine has created cloud-based software that connects users to a network of conversion rate optimization experts. The optimizers have experience running tests for companies such as Amazon, Adobe, and other e-commerce companies. Experiment Engine customers submit a page they’d like to improve. The experts will evaluate it and create variations, which customers can accept and then add to their site to run the test.

Experiment Engine pays its experts when they submit a test page, gives them a bonus if a customer accepts it for a test, and then gives them a much bigger bonus if the customer adopts it, Vo says. What customers pay will be determined by their size and their needs.

Right now Experiment Engine is small, with only three employees. The recent investment will be spent on building the team and adding business development hires. Vo declined to say how many optimization experts were working with the company.

Vo did say Experiment Engine has been working with a handful of customers, including its first international customers, and that it is generating revenue. The companies come from e-commerce, lead generation, marketing, and mobile sectors.

Customers have been able to triple the number of tests they run each month, and on average their conversions have increased by 20 percent, according to Vo.

There are many companies developing conversion rate optimization software, and investors are expecting great things from them. The most prominent example is Optimizely, which has raised $88 million from big-name VC firms including Andreessen Horowitz.

All of that makes sense in Vo’s opinion. She thinks companies with poorly designed websites are leaving millions of dollars on the table.

Experiment Engine isn’t competing against the conversion rate optimization companies, but it does have a more established and better-known competitor in Kaizen Platform, a startup in Japan. Kaizen Platform was founded in 2013 and in April raised a $5 million Series A round to launch in the U.S. It claims to have more than 500 customers.

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