A Q&A with Koality co-founder and CEO Jonathan Chu. The San Francisco-based startup, which offers a secure continuous integration environment for engineers and developers meant to cut down on errors and increase productivity, made its official launch on the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield earlier this month. It was founded last September and the team raised $1.8 million in Seed funding in July.
SUB: Please describe Koality and your primary innovation.
Chu: Koality is a secure testing platform for software engineers. Our software dramatically increases the productivity and output of engineering teams by speeding up tests and preventing mistakes that frequently stop entire teams from working. Increased efficiency at the engineering level leads to improved productivity organization-wide, letting companies get their product out to customers faster.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Chu: Koality’s primary target markets are teams of developers working at quickly-growing engineering organizations. Inefficiencies inherent to the software development industry start to significantly affect the productivity of medium-to-large teams, so we’ve designed the Koality testing platform to deliver the most value to organizations with a significant engineering presence.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Koality from the competition?
Chu: The largest source of competition for a product with Koality’s capabilities is expensive custom internal tools built by engineering companies themselves. Long test suites, frequently breaking builds and the negative effect they have on team productivity and morale are inevitable problems for every growing engineering team.
Before Koality, there wasn’t a secure off-the-shelf solution to combat these issues, so companies were forced to solve these problems themselves internally. Koality’s solution is cheaper to deploy and maintain, and unlike internal solutions, which must first be built, Koality is available immediately.
SUB: When was the company founded, and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Chu: The team left Palantir Technologies to found Koality in September, 2012, with the goal of solving the problems we faced every day as engineers at a rapidly-growing software company.
We met with Peter Thiel, Paypal co-founder and Palantir chairman, very early on to discuss the roadmap for productizing a solution to solve these industry-wide problems. Peter provided the initial Seed capital for Koality through FF Angel, and we started working on the Koality beta.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Koality? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Chu: As software engineers ourselves, we’ve experienced regular frustration caused by broken builds, long running tests, mismatching environments, and slow dev velocity. Those problems exist industry-wide and had plagued us job-after-job, so we set out to create a solution.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Chu: Our product solves a real business need, but we wanted a name that didn’t conform to traditional B2B naming conventions. Koality designer Ryan Scott came up with the name, inspired by a nickname he has for his girlfriend. The name ‘Koality’—pronounced ‘quality’—reflects our mission of improving how software engineers work while embracing our team’s sense of humor and being slightly whimsical in a relatable, ‘non-traditional-B2B-tech’ sort of way.
SUB: You just had your official public launch at TechCrunch Disrupt SF. Why was this the right time to launch?
Chu: Launching at TechCrunch Disrupt was perfect timing. We’ve already had some big wins with private beta customers like Asana and One Kings Lane, which gave us an opportunity to prove our concept and refine the product. We were accepted into Disrupt right as Koality was ready to be made available to software engineers everywhere.
SUB: How would you rate the experience of launching at Disrupt? Was it a positive experience for your team?
Chu: TechCrunch Disrupt was an incredibly positive experience for our team. TechCrunch has a highly-sophisticated and technical audience, so launching on the Battlefield stage was a really effective way to reach our niche market of software engineers.
Preparing for the event was a ton of work, both on the product and the marketing side, but it really pulled the team together. It was impressive to see how much we were able to accomplish in a few short weeks. We were dead exhausted afterwards, but every minute was absolutely worth it.
SUB: Have you raised outside funding to this point?
Chu: Yes, we’re very lucky to be supported by some of the best investors in the industry, including Peter Thiel, Webb Investment Network, Index Ventures, Felicis Ventures, and Ray Tonsing.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Chu: The most significant challenge has been creating software that can work for any company. There isn’t a standard way of building products in the software industry, so each company’s infrastructure is completely unique. We’ve spent a lot of time making sure Koality delivers big wins for any size team at any type of company.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Chu: Koality is available through a per-seat subscription model. We’re still working on the details, but we’ll have three pricing tiers. One is designed to be affordable for small teams, with another aimed at larger growth companies who need a robust testing solution with higher levels of parallelization, support, and security. We’ll also be offering free 30-day trials for all tiers so teams can try Koality risk-free.
SUB: What are your goals for Koality over the next year or so?
Chu: We’re really focused on creating the best off-the-shelf testing solution available in order to help as many teams as possible. This means constantly adding new features to improve the user experience, integrating into an ever-expanding list of cloud providers, and hiring the team necessary to provide an extremely high level of support to our rapidly growing customer base.
Koality – www.koalitycode.com