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March 31, 2014 2014 Small Business Leader of the Year

Business Leaders of the Year 2014: Doron Reuveni, uTest

Doron Reuveni

In just five years, Doron Reuveni has transformed Framingham-based uTest from a small startup operating out of his MetroWest home to a tech darling that recently wooed Goldman Sachs into leading a $43 million round of financing to support expansion.

He had years of experience in software consulting when he decided to launch uTest, which will soon change its name to Applause. But quick success may also be owed to Reuveni's experiences as an endurance athlete and former Israeli military officer. He said military experience taught him the value of responsibility, and passing it on to young employees, while athletics fosters determination in business.

“Building a company is an endurance sport, at the end of the day,” Reuveni said.

Reuveni enjoys a sunny, corner-office view at uTest's new headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, cushioned by high-profile neighbors like Bose Corp. and Genzyme. It seems remarkable that in 2008, Reuveni and co-founder Roy Solomon were running a small shop at Reuveni's home before moving to a shared office space in downtown Ashland.

A 47-year-old Hopkinton resident and father of three, Reuveni recalled with a smile how he competed with noise from passing trains as he took phone calls from reporters interested in speaking with him about his startup and its novel approach to software testing.

“I'd have to mute the phone so they wouldn't hear it,” he said.

Those days of scrappiness are behind him. uTest, whose rebranding next month will reflect a wider array of services the company now offers, has been showered with business awards and recognized by publications like Forbes. The company has raised more than $80 million since 2008 and posted annual revenue of $24 million, as of January.

Counting companies like Google and Amazon among its clients, uTest today employs more than 150 and contracts with more than 100,000 professional software testers in 200 countries. The in-the-wild approach to testing software apps is unique, and was born out of Reuveni's own experience as a software consultant.

“I always had an issue with the fact that I spent a lot of time on making sure that the software I delivered to the customer (was) working as intended,” Reuveni said, adding that products would invariably perform without a hitch in a lab setting, but in user's hands, “it didn't behave as it was supposed to.”

At the time Reuveni and Solomon were considering launching uTest, Reuveni said LinkedIn was gaining traction as an online network of business professionals. The two were inspired by the power of an Internet community, and applied a similar concept by creating a global community of contract software testers.

This innovative approach caught the eyes of Scale Venture Partners, based in Foster City, Calif., now a lead uTest investor. Sharon Wienbar, a partner at Scale, said her firm discovered uTest at a time when the software testing industry was “ripe for disruption” using an Internet-enabled business model to sells services online.

“They provide a service to their customers, which solves a problem that's not really possible to solve any other way,” Wienbar said.

Wienbar attributes much of uTest's success to Reuveni's grittiness, which she finds inspirational. In fact, after learning of Reuveni's involvement in endurance sports, Wienbar took up rowing. She figured that if he could balance the demands of work and family, she could, too.

“So many studies have shown what makes people successful … is grit,” Weinbar said.

uTest has expanded from offering in-the-wild testing services to software and tools that aid companies in determining application functionality; that prompted the company to pursue the Applause name change. The uTest name will be retained as a non-commercial brand representing the company's community of testers.

Solomon, the uTest co-founder and vice president of product management, said many CEOs are willing to take a gamble on a name change, which can potentially set a company back as the company's brand awareness takes a hit. But Reuveni is willing to take risks, and he's aggressive — a crucial quality in the software-testing industry.

“You have to move very quickly and the market is changing very frequently,” Solomon said. “If you stay still, someone is going to eat your lunch.”

With $43 million from Goldman Sachs in hand, uTest is exploring ways to expand in the next year, including a possible stock IPO. Though a decision to go public has not been made, it's the “next logical step” for the company, according to Reuveni, who said he must bring value to investors who have supported uTest through the startup phase.


Business Leaders of the Year 2014 - Doron Reuveni, uTest

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