Mobile-first or, increasingly, mobile-only are becoming common concepts, and apps are big business — the Apple App Store alone will more than double from 2016 to 2020, with a projected 5 million active apps. But it’s also a tough business considering over 90 percent of all downloaded apps are used once and then deleted.
The most common reason for choosing which apps will — and which will not — take up precious data space on your mobile? The technical experience. Bugs, slow load time, and crashes can make the most useful, best-designed app an utter failure. Extensive and careful testing is necessary to make your app rise above the rest.
Vu Lam saw the difficulty of getting access to every kind of mobile device on the market — he estimates there are over 50,000 types of devices, all with different configurations and variations. The software entrepreneur last founded QASymphony, an agile software testing company that recently raised a $40 million Series C funding round and expanded internationally, and says he was often asked if the company could also address the difficulties developers had in obtaining real mobile hardware for testing, as well as managing internal mobile device labs.
Along with his business partner Josh Lieberman, Lam started their new endeavor, Kobiton, to address these challenges. The cloud-based platform allows users, ranging from freelance individual developers to enterprise IT departments, to test mobile and web apps on any device, both iOS and Android. A larger company also can use the platform to manage all their internal testing mobile devices. Vu says their beta launch saw more than 3,000 users and 300 companies.
Lam took a break from building up software businesses to break down the concept of a cloud-based device lab, why he believes Atlanta is the best place to build a company, and what they’re looking towards in the near future (hint: expect a CEO announcement quite soon!)
When was Kobiton founded?
How many employees do you have right now?
We have four employees in Atlanta and 22 developers and testers in Vietnam focused on Kobiton.
Give us the elevator pitch.
Kobiton is a complete mobile device cloud platform that provides anytime, anywhere access to real devices for testing. Simple to use, easy to access and flexible enough to manage internal or external devices, Kobiton minimizes costs while increasing productivity, helping businesses get their apps to market sooner.
What problem are you solving?
For developers and testers, it can be difficult and expensive to gain access to the real mobile devices they need to test their product. This becomes even more challenging when you consider that, by some estimates, there are more than 50,000 mobile devices types in use across the globe today, running countless combinations of operating systems. This device fragmentation poses a significant problem to developers and testers who need to test their mobile product on real devices before launching.
Poor consumer reviews can doom an app, which is why it is critical to test on the right devices before launch. The truth is consumers rarely give you a second chance if your app doesn’t perform as they expect.
Kobiton provides simple and affordable cloud-based access to a wide range of the latest mobile devices and configurations to help get quality mobile products into the market more quickly.
When/how did you realize this product was needed?
While running QASymphony, I had numerous clients asks if we would consider building out a solution for mobile device lab management and testing in addition to our qTest product. At the time, I had to turn that down to focus on growing QASymphony.
As I re-focused on KMS, I was looking for the next problem to solve, and began to explore if mobile device testing was still a problem for software teams. In numerous sessions with our own mobile teams, KMS clients and industry experts, we agreed that access to real devices for testing was a big problem with no good solution in place.
I am an engineer at heart and am happiest when I am building software to solve problems. This is what excites me most about Kobiton — creating a solution to a problem that can help developers and businesses work more effectively.
Who are your customers?
In general, there are several segments in this market. At one end, there are individuals and small teams that create a great majority of the apps on the online stores. They don’t have much budget to purchase actual devices for testing, and generally make do with the devices they have on hand. They may be aware of mobile cloud offerings, but costs are prohibitively high for them. Kobiton provides them an option to get access to any device they need and a flexible model where they pay for the time on these devices without having to sign up for a subscription.
For larger enterprises, we provide a hybrid solution that allows clients to leverage their internal devices with access to the Kobiton devices on the cloud. Managing an internal mobile device lab requires manual overhead and is very inefficient. You have to make sure the devices are in good operating condition, and be positioned to manage the sharing of them across multiple testers and teams. The more devices you have in inventory, the bigger the logistical problem. With Kobiton, you can create a local device farm, and share it across all team members using the Kobiton portal. Your testers can then access your internal devices or a Kobiton device seamlessly in a hybrid cloud.
By addressing the mobile device needs of the broad market, we believe that Kobiton will remove one more barrier and make mobile development faster and more efficient.
How are you funded?
By intention, we are a bit of a hybrid model. We funded and developed Kobiton through our consulting company, KMS Technology.
When we founded KMS Technology in 2009 our vision was for it to serve as a financial and talent platform to incubate and spin off IP-related companies. We followed this model when we created QASymphony, which recently raised $40 million in Series C funding. We’re now focusing our efforts on Kobiton.
What’s the revenue model?
Kobiton offers testers on-demand access to a wide range of the latest devices and configurations by purchasing blocks of testing minutes.
Additionally, companies can pay a monthly per device fee to build their own mobile device labs and provide access to their entire IT organization through the Kobiton cloud.
Who are your competitors?
There are companies that address the needs of different segments of the market. Looking at it in pieces, Amazon’s Device Farm, Xamarin and Sauce Labs offer access to devices for testing, but they don’t have a way for companies to manage the devices they own within the same platform. Companies that help manage an internal device lab include Mobile Labs and Perfecto.
Why choose Atlanta for your headquarters?
We are proudly based in Atlanta. It’s a great place to start a company, with a well-connected community of professionals, technologists and entrepreneurs who are willing and eager to help. It’s quite rare to experience this level of support and engagement from a startup community. Plus, we can recruit and retain exceptionally talented employees.
We expect that Atlanta will be the headquarters for all the companies incubated and launched through KMS Technology. It’s too welcoming of an environment to leave behind.
Are you hiring?
We recently brought on a sales manager and expect to appoint a CEO shortly. From there, our expectation is that Kobiton will follow the incubation model we saw at QASymphony, adding additional staff as it grows into a fully-functioning stand-alone company.