We put together a list of the top YC companies by valuation as of October 2018. You can see that list at https://ycombinator.com/topcompanies.
Here’s a Q&A with Fred Stevens-Smith, Cofounder of Rainforest, one of the companies featured on the list.
What does Rainforest make/do?
We are building the AWS for QA, so that software companies don’t have to build out a large in-house QA team, and can instead focus on shipping great products. Over time, we’re making QA an implicit part of building software. We envisage the QA industry evolving similarly to infrastructure, and right now the industry is stuck in the ‘buy a bunch of servers and stick them in your basement’ stage.
How many employees does Rainforest have?
How many founders?
What is your most impressive recent product milestone?
We haven’t talked about this much, but we automate our customers’ tests using ML. Think of it like the self-driving rideshare: after a customer has taken the same trip enough times, we know how to drive it without the driver in the car. We’re about to cross a major milestone with one quarter of our testing being successfully automated. This is running in the background and hasn’t been rolled out to customers yet, but the vision is that you only need to create one test, and we’ll then proactively return automation as well as manual execution for your team to integrate wherever it’s useful.
What is the larger impact / societal impact of your product in the space you work within?
QA is one of the last very manual elements of building software, and the easier and less manual we can make QA for software companies, the more those companies can invest in building great products. That’s a win for everyone.
We also have an interesting societal impact, in that we have a large Uber-like crowd of about 60 thousand human testers, based all over the world, that do the testing work for our customers. To people living in lower income parts of the world, there’s a massive quality of life impact of having on-demand work through an internet connection, where the only qualification required is speaking English. Stories like testers being able to put their kids through private school in parts of India, or paying for roof repairs before the rainy seasons begins in Argentina, or paying for expensive surgery for their significant others so they can go back to work.
What’s an interesting element of Rainforest’s company culture?
To me it’s how intentional we’ve been about it since Day 1. We had some bad experiences in the early days of Rainforest, and they pushed us to be really explicit about the traits and characteristics we wanted to work alongside. I’m really proud that we’ve built a team of exceptional people with no assholes, who are diverse but unified through our 3 core values. I know every startup claims this – most of them are liars.
Looking back, what motivated you to start Rainforest?
Honestly, I’m pretty unemployable. After getting fired for the Nth time I decided the only smart move was to start my own company. Russ and I started Rainforest in London, and the other big motivator has been competition – as soon as we committed to doing a startup we knew Silicon Valley was the only place to be, and the outcome that we cared about was IPO.
Is what you’re working on now the original idea or did you pivot?
We pivoted during YC, about a month before demo day.
Were there moments where you thought the company might die? Describe one of those and anything you learned from it.
I’m laughing reading this question, because I think the inverse would be easier to answer. But to name a specific point in time, late 2014 we had two months cash in the bank, nowhere near the revenue to raise a Series A, and a lot of unanswered questions about the business. If it weren’t for Jim Andelman of Bonfire Ventures clearly seeing the potential of our vision despite our operational incompetence, Rainforest wouldn’t be around today.
What was a particularly important insight you had about your market that made your product work?
Absolutely, and I have to say this was all luck – we realized, through observing the behavior of the other startups in our batch, that Continuous Delivery was going to completely change the QA market. Prior to CD, QA was a weird backwater that wasn’t thought of as strategic and was essentially under-loved and under-resourced. Continuous Delivery has made QA an engineering priority. We realized this ahead of most other companies, and built Rainforest from the ground up to solve this problem – moving fast without breaking things.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with a young founder?
Don’t do anything to scale your business until you have product market fit. Articulate the culture you want in terms of values, choose only 3, and hire and fire religiously against them. Build a board early to hold you accountable. And never, ever lose touch with the customer.