🕹️From testing browsers to the whole internet: The story of BrowserStack

Plus, insights on its products!

Bootstrapped for 6 years✅


Unicorn valuation after just 2 rounds✅

That's BrowserStack- a monster SaaS startup from Mumbai that I can't believe I never knew about.

Today's article is a deep dive into this startup- we'll understand its idea, its products, and its business. Excited?

Hey friends, I'm Shreyans, and welcome back to Integral🕹- a place where we get smarter about Indian startups.

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Let's go🚀🚀

🕹️The 4 billion dollar idea behind BrowserStack:

After developers write software, they have to test it before they release it to the public. And here's the thing- writing code is fun but testing code is boring. Developers have to test their software for all sorts of bugs and errors, and this is very tedious.

In the age of dinosaurs, PCs were the most popular device. So developers wrote and tested their code only for PCs. Testing code for PCs meant that developers had to test their code on the hundreds of different browsers available.

Can you imagine how non-fun this was? Opening each browser, running the code, looking for errors, and fixing the errors😴😴😴

(I read somewhere that Google Search has more than 1 billion lines of code!! Imagine testing 1 billion lines of code on every browser!!😵😵)

The other solution in front of developers was to use an emulator. But testing on an emulator was a mess- lots of errors in the real world weren't visible in the emulator. What's the point of testing then lol

In the age of dinosaurs, developers were ok with doing this kind of hard work for testing. But then came a revolution in the world of coding- Agile. In Agile, developers have to quickly write and improve their software. Because they are writing software so quickly, they have very little time to test it. Obviously, developers couldn't test their code on hundreds of browsers so quickly.

BrowserStack saw this was a problem, and fixed it. Their first product, launched in 2011 allowed developers to test their code on all types of browsers at once- no need to actually open different browsers or use a shitty emulator. Developers saved time and effort and could focus more on writing code instead of testing it.

What's beautiful about this solution is how non-obvious this was. No one was actually complaining about the testing problems. Developers just accepted boring testing as a fact of life and moved on. It took the genius of founders, Nakul Aggarwal and Ritesh Arora, to realize this was a real problem, and solving this problem would be valuable to developers.

In fact, this solution was so valuable to developers that BrowserStack crossed 20,000 users in just 6 months.

But remember, this was just an idea. Once you have an idea, execution matters the most. And BrowserStack's journey after launch proved just how good their execution was.

🕹️Live and Automate:

Their first product, about which I just told you, is called Live.

Today, Live offers testing on 2000+ browsers on both PCs and mobiles. Plus, they offer all the different versions of browsers. It shows how much they have improved their product.

2 years after the launch of Live, Browserstack launched Automate. Automate filled an important gap in the software testing market that Live had ignored.

This gap was called Selenium.

Selenium is a tool used by software testers(=people whose job is to test software). Inside selenium, there are a bunch of standard rules for software testing. In complex language, it's called a "testing framework".

Selenium became necessary after the Agile method of software development became popular. This is where Selenium comes in-it "automates" the testing process. In other words, Selenium speeds up the testing process.

When I read about Selenium, I was surprised- isn't this what BrowserStack Live was doing? Speeding up the testing process?

This is where BrowserStack did big brein😎 Testers were used to Selenium to test their software, so changing that was difficult. But BrowserStack's Live had access to 2000+ browsers which developers needed to ensure their software worked everywhere. So BrowserStack launched Automate, a tool that combined Live and Selenium.

Using Automate, developers could use Selenium on 2000+ browsers. That's why the tagline of Automate is "Selenium testing at scale".

But this was not the only reason for launching Automate. You see, Selenium had its own problems- mainly maintenance. As the size of the code increases, maintaining Selenium becomes tough. Like, really freaking tough.

Automate solved this problem as well. Developers don't have to worry about maintaining Selenium- Browserstack does that. Developers can focus on using Selenium to test their websites and software.

This was 2013. For now, BrowserStack's dominance was absolute- its 2 products Live and Automate took care of testing websites on PC browsers. But smartphones were gradually becoming popular. And smartphones used the mobile version of browsers(which is slightly different from PC browsers).

That's why in 2015, BrowserStack launched mobile-testing services. Basically, developers could use Live and Automate for smartphone browsers as well. This was a logical move- developers had to make sure their websites worked on smartphones and they would need testing for that. Who better to solve this new problem than BrowserStack?

Thus, BrowserStack conquered the entire browser testing market- for PCs and smartphones. But a new market was emerging in front of their eyes. Attacking this market would be their biggest and boldest move till now.

🕹️App Live and App Automate:

Did you guess the new market from the heading?😅

The new market was- smartphone apps🥁🥁

Developers saw that people loved using apps, so they started making apps. These types of developers are called app developers. App developers faced the same problem- testing.

App developers had to test their apps on every model of smartphone available in the market🤯🤯🤯 And there are thousands of smartphone brands and lakhs of phone models. How many can you test?

Big companies solved this problem in the big company way- they bought lots of smartphones for testing. But this was a big headache for them- maintaining them, updating them, etc. And what about the small startups and individual developers? They couldn't buy so many smartphones. They used the Jai Mata Di method- writing the general code, and praying that it would work everywhere.

BrowserStack saw an opportunity here and took the shot. And this, my friends, marked the most important move in the company's history.

When you read it, it sounds kinda obvious, right? BrowserStack was already testing browsers, so expanding to testing apps wasn't a big deal. But by making this move, BrowserStack had conquered a very important problem that companies face- marketing myopia. Let me explain.

In the early 20th century, railways were the dominant mode of transportation. But soon buses and trucks became popular, and railway companies lost their dominant position. Why? Because the railway companies thought they were railway companies, but in reality, they were transportation companies. They couldn't overcome marketing myopia, so they got disrupted by buses and trucks.

Netflix is a good example of a company that successfully overcame marketing myopia. Netflix used to sell DVDs, but in 2008 DVD sales were declining. So the company shifted to streaming. Here, Netflix realized that it wasn't a DVD company, it was an entertainment company. So it overcame the marketing myopia.

Marvel and DC are other good examples. Before 2000, their main business was comic books. But today, comic books are extinct. Instead, Marvel and DC shifted to movies. why? Because they realized that they were entertainment companies, not comic book companies.

BrowserStack too successfully overcame marketing myopia- by expanding to app testing, they had realized their ambition: they weren't just a browser testing company, but a testing company. CEO Ritesh Arora said something similar in an interview with TechCrunch-

BrowserStack wants to become the testing infrastructure of the internet.

So BrowserStack began executing in this new market with their product- App Live.

They bought lots of smartphones and all the different models. This is what App Live does- it gives access to all these smartphones(real devices). Big companies didn't have to buy and maintain all the smartphones, they could just use App Live. Small startups and individual developers who couldn't afford to buy so many smartphones? They could also just use App Live to get access to all these smartphones.

App Automate is just like the Automate product- it combines Appium(the Selenium equivalent for mobile apps) and App Live. Using App Automate, developers can run Appium tests on different smartphone models.

There aren't separate user numbers for these products, so I can't say how successful these products are. But BrowserStack has opened 7 mobile data centers worldwide- this means there is a huge demand for its App products. And their customer acquisition is on a roll- they have 4 million users and 50,000 paying users. Their customers include Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter, Tesco, IKEA, Spotify, Expedia, and Trivago🔥🔥🔥

Last year, the company's Indian entity had revenue of $19.3 million, an increase of 70% from the year before that😮😮. Their business model is just like a B2B SaaS company, and the main source of revenue is the monthly/annual subscription fees they charge for each product. The subscription fees range from $25 per month to $199 per month. Multiply these numbers by the 50k paying users, and you get this huge revenue👇👇

The company isn't slowing down on expansion- last year, they acquired a startup called Percy and added it to their product line-up. Percy is a visual-testing tool. Percy helps teams automate visual testing by capturing screenshots and comparing them against the baseline and highlighting visual changes. For example, if you want a button in the center, but it is to the left, Percy will highlight it so that developers can correct it.

🕹️The Future: Testing the whole internet?

BrowserStack's current product line-up looks like this:

3 products for testing websites, and 2 products for testing apps.

If you look closely, this lineup is closely related to the devices we use. Earlier, we used PCs, so developers wrote code for PCs, so BrowserStack tested code for PCs. After that, we started using smartphones, so developers started writing code for smartphones, so BrowserStack started testing code for smartphones.

First PCs. Then smartphones. What's next? What's the next device that people will use?

Don't look too far, the answer is right in front of us: Internet of Things(IoT)💡

IoT will connect every device to the internet and make it smart- smart fridges, smart bulbs, smart speakers, smart watches, etc. Thus, IoT will bring a Cambrian explosion in the number of devices that we use. When we use more devices, developers will write code for these devices, so BrowserStack can test the code for these devices.

And this, my friends, is why BrowserStack has so much potential- the IoT market is so big that BrowserStack's existing revenue streams will pale in comparison.

Now that you know about this huge potential, CEO Ritesh Arora's line makes more sense-

We want to achieve our vision of becoming the testing infrastructure for the internet.

With such a huge potential and such lofty ambitions, I believe BrowserStack is just getting started.

This, my friends, wraps up today’s article. I hope you found it informative!

If you’re looking for some quick-reads, here are some awesome Twitter threads-

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  2. The startup that crushed Amazon and Google

  3. The startup that got $52 million just by making beautiful forms

I’ve started writing on Twitter as well. Follow me there so that you don’t miss all these insights:

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