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QA Financial Forum: Milano 2019

23 January, 2019
News and research on financial software quality assurance and risk management

The Rising Stars of QA: Six New Vendors to Watch in 2019

19 November 2018
We’ve picked six young firms that stand out for their innovative technology and their relevance to a financial markets customer base.

We’ve picked six young firms that stand out for their innovative technology and their relevance to a financial markets customer base.

While software quality assurance has been an attractive marketplace for private equity investors, the marketplace for enterprise solutions remains a ripe target for disruption. Previously conservative conservative banks, insurers and asset managers are looking for tools that will help them on the DevOps journey and increasingly that means cloud-based, SaaS products. The “millennial” generation of testing specialists that took aim at the dominant market position of HP (now Micro Focus) testing solutions should be looking over their shoulders at these new competitors.

Applitools

Applitools uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to conduct granular UX testing of the front end of websites and applications. The company’s core product leverages AI in an way which can be considered part of the technology’s core domain, detecting bugs and inconsistencies in the user interface via image recognition. It performs thousands of scans of an app interface, before and after a release, in order to detect significant changes and then alert the developer. According to Applitools CTO Adam Carmi, the software learns from previous releases and improves with time, being able to handle both static and dynamic application pages across devices, browsers and form factors.

The flexibility of the platform makes Applitools, founded in 2013 in Israel, a unique competitor in the space, according to Carmi.

“Right now, at least at the enterprise level, we are unique,” he said. “There are plenty of opensource tools out there that perform similar functions, but these cannot operate at the scale that we do. Customers that use these tools are our lowest hanging fruit.”

Applitools has attracted a lot of industry attention, resulting in a $20m funding round in October this year. Since its founding, the company has raised a total of $41.8m across five funding rounds, with majority investments from venture funds OpenView and Sierra Ventures.

Recently, Applitools added UI version control and root cause analysis to its list of features. Such additions are part of the company’s broader strategy of enabling UI testing within agile projects – improving documentation and visibility and saving time for developers and QA engineers.

Assure

Assure provides application lifecycle analytics and visualises them to improve the way firms build, test and operate their software. So its core product, TotalView, is ideally suited to the requirements of Agile and DevOps work, and help development teams bridge the transition from Waterfall environments, according to CEO David White.

“We’re not a simple reporting solution, we don’t provide islands of information,” said White. “Instead, we aim to arm the right people with the right information, all based on a single source of truth.”

After starting life as a consulting firm, Assure refocused on ALM in 2010 when it spotted the growing need for standardised, accessible data that could be used to monitor the entire software development lifecycle. Assure’s customers are principally using Micro Focus’s HP ALM tool to monitor software development. TotalView is designed to sit on top of that, as well as a number of others development, testing and project management tools.

“There are tools out there that provide similar information, but in separate pieces,” explained White. “When you are operating in an Agile world, and especially when operating agile at scale, it is difficult to get the full picture, because projects move so fast. Agile works at the scrum level, but organisations struggle to scale it to the project level, particularly because they lack visibility over the data.”

The majority of Assure’s customers are financial firms, where demand for quality assurance at scale is growing rapidly, as are the demands of software risk management. White predicts increasing demand more sophisticated analysis of ALM data and says Assure is developing AI-based predictive models that will predict resolution times for defects.

The company currently has private equity backing, and White does not exclude the possibility of launching further funding rounds in the future.

Element34 Solutions

More financial firms are embracing the idea of using open-source testing tools, but many still lack the infrastructure to run tests with those tools.

Element34 offers an on-premise, managed Selenium Grid cross-browser testing solution for Selenium and Appium, which it calls the Selenium Box.

The combination of a widely popular open-source tool with an off-the-shelf product seems well suited to the growing trend among banks to assemble toolboxes of favoured solutions.

Michael Palotas, CEO at the Zurich-based vendor, launched Elelment34

in 2015 along with CTO Francois Reynaud. Both had previously worked at eBay and had been deeply involved with the Selenium project.

“After we founded Element34, we started out offering consulting services, helping companies get into test automation and the DevOps space,” said Palotas.

“An on-premise infrastructure allows companies to maintain security and scalability,” he said. “Sometimes our customers have such a high scale of testing requirement that establishing  interconnectivity between a cloud-based provider and their own systems makes those targets harder to reach.”

Palotas believes that Element34’s product is unique.  “We are not aware of any other on-premises solution that is completely maintenance-free [i.e. managed with automated browser and mobile updates],” he said. “We also believe we are uniquely positioned to meet the high scaling requirements of large enterprises. There are competing solutions out there, but these typically require on-site, manual maintenance provided by the vendor to scale.”

The next step?  Element34  plans to roll out a secure, single sign-on feature for its products, as well as an open-source component that will facilitate automated testing for Windows applications, powered by Microsoft’s WinApp driver.

HeadSpin

Founded in 2014, HeadSpin competes in the hot space for testing mobile apps, and leverages machine learning alongside a global platform of 22,000 physical devices to offer mobile testing at scale.

The Palo Alto, California-based company’s CEO and co-founder (alongside CTO Brien Colwell) is Manish Lachwani, who was was previously the principle architect for the Amazon Kindle, chief technology officer at mobile gaming company Zynga and co-founder and chief technology officer of Google-acquired Appurify, which helped developers automate testing of their mobile apps and websites.

“The HeadSpin platform allows for pre-release testing across servers, content delivery networks, devices and apps,” Lachwani said.  Headspin’s edge derives from the sheer number of devices on its cloud-based platform. The vast amount of performance data generated by these devices powers an AI engine, which sifts through the collected user experience data points and predicts critical performance issues. And the cloud means HeadSpin testing is equally accessible for individual developers and enterprise teams

The company raised $20m in a funding round in October, led by ICONIQ Capital, which joined existing investors GV, Telstra Ventures, Danhua Capital, Nexus Ventures Partners and NextWorld Capital. The new capital will be invested in scaling, particularly onboarding and managing new clients., Lachwani said.

mabl

Founded in 2017 by ex-Googlers Izzy Azeri and Dan Belcher, the core product offered by mabl (pronounced may-bl) is a machine learning-powered UI regression testing tool, hosted in the cloud as a SaaS.  This year the firm added a load testing tool.

The key to this plug-and-play solution for agile QA teams is machine learning. “For regression testing, we take a screenshot of what the page we’re testing looks like at every step of the testing,” Azeri explained. “After about four iterations of the test, we have enough training data to build a model of what the page looks like. Then, in future runs of a test, if that page visually changes, we’re able to identify the regression.”

“We have the capability to omit dynamic areas of a page – for example, ad spaces that move around the page – and only alert test engineers to changes in static areas of the page.”

“Secondly, we apply machine learning to test performance. For example, if the software thinks that a test usually takes four minutes to run, and suddenly it takes eight minutes to run, the software will identify this as an outlier, but it won’t flag it as an anomaly until it happens twice in a row.”

Mabl in the right place at the right time, said Azeri. “Most of our customers have adopted CI/CD and DevOps principles. When they adopt DevOps, things start to move much more quickly and their traditional QA tooling falls apart.”

All of this has helped mabl expand rapidly, completing two funding rounds in 2018 – for $10m in January and $20m in September. The lead investors in mabl are Google Ventures and Charles River Ventures.

In September, the company started marketing its enterprise subscription tailored to the larger clients it is now seeking.

RegTek Solutions

RegTek Solutions offers a set of regulatory compliance software tools, specifically tailored to the financial sector. RegTek’s products originated in the regulatory compliance practice developed by founder Brian Lynch at financial risk consultancy Risk Focus.

“What we found was that trade and transaction data within banks was very siloed, due largely to the reliance on legacy systems,” said RegTek founder Brian Lynch. “We started developing more comprehensive compliance frameworks in 2010, when the Dodd-Frank [Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act] came into force.”

Dodd-Frank, and subsequent regulatory initiatives, required banks to become much more proactive and granular in their regulatory reporting, creating a growing niche for compliance tools. In 2017, Lynch founded RegTek Solutions, turning the compliance practices he had developed into tools that would meet that demand.

RegTek’s core product, ValidateTrade, is an independent trade and transaction reporting engine, which comprises a broad range of validations. These include regulatory specific validations, repository acceptance criteria, messaging standards, enhanced validations and best practices. The engine can also be customised with company-specific validations.

The company’s other products are structured around this reporting function. LoadTrade is a trade reporting submission portal, providing connectivity to the main trade repositories; ReportableTrade is a tool for trade reporting completeness which identifies over- and under- reporting and duplicates; and ReconcileTrade is a cloud-based engine, delivering a set of packaged trade reconciliations for regulatory compliance.

In combination, this toolbox ensures compliance with all the leading G20 jurisdictions for OTC markets, as well as with transaction reporting under MiFIR/MiFID II and the European Commission’s Securities Financing Transaction Regulation, which comes into force in 2019.

About 10 of the world’s largest derivatives dealer banks (the so-called G16) are among RegTek’s clients, according to Lynch. That allows the company to further develop its solutions in response to market and regulatory changes, he said.

The company’s unique positioning attracted the attention of Deutsche Börse and Illuminate Capital, which have invested a total of $5 million in the company. As the company scales, however, Lynch acknowledges that it will likely target another funding round in early 2019.

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