― Your initial idea doesn’t always end up being the final version of your service or product, especially in case of startups, ― says Tomasz Jasiński, COO and co-founder of the Wrocław-based rebug.io. The company was established in 2016, while its founders – Paweł Wojtyczka, Łukasz Fudro and Tomasz Jasiński – had already worked together on a different undertaking – a mass texting platform. Over time, they realised that this market segment would not have a long future, firstly because of a very intense competition and secondly, the resulting low margins. They decided they had to try something different. Following marketing research, they realised that their idea for catching software bugs had commercial viability.
Fewer bugs, more satisfied customers
Why is it so important to catch programming bugs? They can discourage clients from using an app or a website and make them go to the competition. This readily translates to lower revenues, as well as a negative opinion on the market – fewer bugs means more satisfied customers.
The advanced software developed by the Wrocław-based company monitors all website activity and catches programming bugs. If the software encounters a bug, it notifies the website’s developers so that they can ‘patch the hole’ in the system. What makes rebug.io’s product stand out among other existing solutions, is activity analysis based on tags (keywords) pre-defined by the user, who can freely add new tags, delete and/or edit existing ones. The customer can use tags to specify the types of bugs that he or she wishes the software to report – should a given event occur, the customer will receive a notification with an attached user’s screen video.
Who are the main users of rebug.io? They are mostly programmers, software houses, CMS and CRM platforms, UX designers, as well as companies with helpdesks and e-commerce platforms. Unlike rebug.io, many available tools only record website traffic – the downside of these solutions is that someone has to watch these recordings and catch bugs. In the case of the Polish startup, their system uses algorithms that allow this entire analytical process to be automated. The software monitors the website for the occurrence of specific bugs or undesirable user behaviours and generates a report.
However, it is often the case in the startup world that a service or product that has been already brought to market continues to evolve. The scenario was similar for rebug.io. Customers have begun re-purposing this tool, which was originally designed to catch bugs on websites, and started to use it for marketing and sales purposes, as well as UX improvements. This is the way the system is being used by e.g. a large online weapons store – its employees use rebug.io to provide support for their customers while they shop online. ― They can use our tool to connect to the user and ‘watch’ his website activity in real time, as if they were looking at the monitor over their shoulder. This allows them to show the user where to click and direct him to the relevant product, ― explains rebug.io’s COO. He also brings up an example of a different company, namely a fitness club chain, which uses club managing software and has integrated it with rebug.io in order to analyse how their customers use the system and navigate their website. Thus, the company can implement UX improvements.
New business after hours
Before rebug.io, the Wrocław trio was involved in the business of mass texting. For a while, the startuppers ran the two businesses simultaneously, which allowed them to steer clear of ever losing financial liquidity and secure funds for boosting the initial development of their new venture. The work on rebug.io took place after business hours or during their free time from tasks related to running up the mass texting platform. As soon as they managed to produce an MVP, i.e. a prototype that can be tested in market conditions, they made it available for the first batch of test users. These were mostly companies that had previously cooperated with the Wrocław trio, both on projects related to texting and creating IT systems (rebug.io’s founders used to provide services similar to those offered by software houses). ― When their feedback turned out to be positive, we decided to sell our current business, ― explains Tomasz Jasiński.
This is when they began to develop their new venture in earnest, bringing several new people to join their team. They are constantly improving their product, but for the time being, there is no final version on the horizon. Each customer using rebug.io first gets access to the product’s trial version, thereby becoming a tester – this results from the business model adopted by the startuppers from Wrocław.
After the trial period, the users either lose access to the service, or decide to purchase a fixed-term subscription. ― If a company decides to buy a subscription, they usually stay with us. The percentage of subscription cancellations is very low, ― explains the co-founder of the Wrocław-based startup. Rebug’s most frequent applications include making website fixes or implementing new web system versions – these are most often the reasons for which customers choose to buy their first subscription. Then they prolong it in order to use the tool for monitoring their websites.
SaaS, which stands for Software as a Service, is currently one of the most popular models of making software available, especially for natural persons and SMEs. Such software is stored in the cloud, in this case on the service provider’s servers, and is made available under a subscription plan, which allows the end user to save on costs related to buying a license or maintaining servers on which the system is installed, as is the case with the once popular on-premise solutions.
Customers can choose between several packages, which differ in price as well as available functionalities, such as the number of projects that can be monitored, the number of users authorised to use rebug.io and the storage time of recordings from the session. When creating the offer, the company strived to make their prices match those offered by their US competitors.
Although the SaaS model has already become a kind of standard in the IT sector, it is not a good solution for everyone due to security reasons. This is why the Wrocław startuppers also plan to create a server-based on-premise version of their software, taking into account the needs of customers from the banking sector. ― rebug.io will be installed on their servers, in line with their safety policy and standards. We have already been negotiating with several entities of this type, which is why we have to develop an on-premise version specifically for them,― he says.
A window to the ‘big wide world’
What are the most capital-intensive aspects of developing a business of this type? Programming and marketing. ― We are talking to investors, but we’re not really hard-pressed. If a reasonable offer is made, we will consider it, ― says the co-founder of the Wrocław-based startup.
Boosting its promotion abroad, the company participates in the Go to Brand programme, whose intermediary institution is the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development. This programme is addressed to SMEs that plan to develop through exports. Entrepreneurs may receive up to PLN 850,000 in funding to participate in fairs, exhibitions, business missions and conferences abroad. Funding is allocated for the lease of exhibition space, construction of a stand and preparation of promotional materials – banners, folders, brochures.
In the framework of the Go to Brand programme, rebug.io takes part in six industry events, where they are be given the opportunity to showcase their products at their own stands. So far, the trio from Wrocław attended such events as TechCrunchDisrupt 2017 in San Francisco, Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon and Service Desk & IT Support Show 2018 in London. ― We basically arrive to find an already set-up stand where we can promote our solutions. Attending events like this builds brand awareness with people and companies, as they become aware of who we are. It’s also an opportunity for us to directly confront our competition. Attendees come to the stand, often asking us difficult questions, like what makes us stand out from other solutions. It’s a very interesting experience, ― says Tomasz Jasiński.
The main goal of these trips is to establish business relations. However, each product and service comes with its unique set of features. Especially the ones considered novelties. And this is indeed the case with rebug.io, whose fundamental functionalities have to be explained to potential customers. Hence, the first base to cover when attending these fairs is educating people and making them aware that products of this type actually exist.
― But it’s not as if we don’t make any contacts, quite the contrary. There are other benefits that come with attending these events. It allows us to compare ourselves to others. And see that we have nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t just mean us, I’m talking about Polish companies in general. Polish entrepreneurs are often a step above their foreign competitors when it comes to precision, skills, and many other aspects of running a business, ― he remarks.
Attending the fairs allowed rebug.io to establish relationships with foreign users, whom they invited to participate in prolonged tests – the Wrocław trio greatly values opinions of these users, as English speaking markets, mostly the United States, are the company’s primary targets for expansion. Why the US? It is a market that easily absorbs all kinds of IT novelties and at the same time offers rates that are potentially higher than e.g. on the domestic market.
Do something useful
They also started a foundation, because according to Tomasz Jasiński, they had always dreamed of doing something not exactly commercial that would benefit the local community. They heard through the grapevine that the IT sector abroad puts great stock in the skills of people afflicted with Asperger syndrome, and they decided to bring these solutions to the Polish market. As part of a pilot asperIT project, for which they received funding, they recruited people with Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism to check whether they are predisposed to work in IT. They ultimately chose ten people showing the greatest potential and trained them to work as software testers. ― These are very talented people when it comes to science, even though they struggle with interpersonal relations,― he says. This is why they received training covering not only IT-related areas, but also social communication and functioning in the workplace. These people were given the opportunity to take the ISTQB certificate exam free of charge and to start an internship with one of rebug.io’s partners on the Wrocław market. In the future, the startup creators would like to have a team of such testers working for them full-time.