Exclusive Interview with Perfecto Mobile CEO Eran Yaniv

Perfecto Mobile does more than just test apps for developers. The company provides hardware and software solutions for some major enterprise companies. In the world of mobile devices, they offer a platform for devs and testers to make sure their apps are ready before they're rolled out to customers. The company just finished a $20 million round of funding in May. Google announced last week at Google I/O 2014 that they had acquired Appurify, Perfecto Mobile's biggest competitor. I had a chance to catch up with their CEO, Eran Yaniv, the day after I/O ended to talk about the Android app ecosystem and what the Appurify acquisition actually means.

Just to make sure everyone is up to speed, tell me a little bit about your company. What does Perfecto Mobile do?

Perfecto Mobile provides quality related solutions for mobile applications and mobile services in general. We have a cloud based service that provides mobile environments, devices, networks, and control of the various parameters around those environments. We provide those to developers and testers who would like to verify and validate their mobile applications before they are actually launched. What we also provide is the capability to monitor the quality of the application or the service after it have been launched, as a monitoring system where we provide the real devices that reside in various markets. An organization can monitor the services that they provide in those markets on top of real devices, on a periodic basis.

Our main customers are enterprises, all the leading brands in finance, retail, hospitality, travel, everything. Everybody who's anybody, they're using our service. They're using our service, or I like to joke that they will be using our service at some point because they know about us and our service, and we address their needs specifically. The company is headquartered in the Boston area with R&D in Israel. The points of presence that we have are about 12 or 13 points of presence around the world. This means that if you would like to test your application in a target market such as Switzerland, for whatever reason, you can take your application and toss it on to a device that resides on a Swiss network in Switzerland and validate that your application works properly.

We integrate very well into existing tools. It could be development environments like Eclipse or Visual Studio and the like. We integrate into testing tools that are out there, CA related stuff, HP related tools, Mercury interactive, X Mercury interactive related tools and so on. The system is very, very open and can be connected to any process and any tool that is out there, through its APIs.

Wow, so what you do is bigger than just testing apps on mobile devices. How many countries do you have live devices in?

We are set up in 12 countries around the world. However, the flexibility and the openness of the system enable us to do two things. One, it enables us to very quickly cookie cut an additional point of presence, if required. We're looking at additional ones. It depends on our market opportunity and strategic position. The second thing is, we are so open and flexible that we can actually enable customers in places where we do not have points of presence to extend our cloud of devices to their desktop, with their own devices. We are therefore able to grow this infinitely, if you can use that word in this market.

So you can reach anywhere in the world, to customer's desktops, using virtualization. I know you work with Microsoft, Apple, and Google. What other apps and platforms do you support?

To answer that question, I need to give you a little bit of history. We started in a world with no smartphones. You need to know that we have actually developed the capability to support, I would carefully say, 99% of what is out there. Even platforms that are not very common. We basically support every platform that is out there, even platforms that are not built for smartphones, and platforms for distant markets and third-world countries and markets. This is something that we pride ourselves on. We know the devices and platforms really well. So in that respect, there's nothing that can really surprise us, even in non-smartphone platforms. This is what we do. We abstract devices. We do work closely with some of the providers of smartphones. We have a very warm relationship with Microsoft. We work with Apple, and with Google.

The nice thing about Android, I think, is that it's a very open platform. Our technical relationship with Google is quite nice. Their technology is open enough for us to be able to support it as required.

Tell me about your own history, Eran. You've worked with Comverse Technologies and Tecnomatix before founding Perfecto Mobile. What were some of your previous roles, and how did you find yourself starting Perfecto Mobile?

With Tecnomatix, we were doing 3D graphics simulations of production sites for the automotive and aerospace industries. I grew up in Tecnomatix on the technical side. I was actually heading the R&D at Tecnomatix. At some point, I managed a company that was acquired by Tecnomatix. Believe it or not also in the quality world, only at that time it was quality management of mechanical parts for automotive and aerospace, which are very quality prone. The company was in California and we were selling to small companies like, you know, Boeing and McDell Douglas and General Motors, companies nobody had really heard of at the time. That was my first exposure to quality requirements, beyond pure software, and to very large companies that have a process around quality. They are probably much more diligent than smaller companies.

I joined Comverse after that. For a short period of time I was the COO of a company called Exalink that was developing a WAP gateway for mobile carriers. We were acquired by Comverse for $550 million. This was back in 2000. What I did at Comverse was I basically managed the Exalink division. That is my heavy exposure to mobile in general. The background, for me, came from there. We had very heavy interaction with mobile carriers, and from time to time, with developers as well. You gotta know, this is 2000-2005. The world was way different than it is today. I gotta tell you, it does provide a very good background around mobile, and the understanding that a mobile application or a mobile service is not just a piece of software. It's a piece of software that resides in an environment that is way different than the desktop. Way different. That is something that we took into account when my partner Yoram Mizrachi and I founded Perfecto Mobile. It's something that differentiates us from other companies in this space. There are people and companies out there that came from software and not necessarily who came from mobile. I think this gives us an advantage.

It does, for sure. You were way ahead of the curve as the app market exploded.

Let me tell you a quick story just so you understand what I'm talking about when I talk about mobile. At Comverse, we developed an instant messaging application for AT&T. The application was developed in Israel, and when we came to the U.S. we basically had to rewrite it. The devices were different, the firmware was different, and the networks behaved differently. So the understanding that Perfecto Mobile operates in a true environment is something that is extremely important. That's just one quick example.

That makes a lot of sense. There was an opportunity there, because of that disconnect of apps and software in different regions, and you seized it.

Definitely. The premise on which Perfecto was founded comes from two directions. One, it comes from the fact that mobile, in many ways, is local. You want to develop in a target market, but you want to develop from anywhere in the world. Remotely accessing your target market is an extremely important aspect in developing and testing cycles. Because Perfecto does what we do in the cloud, that enables developers in Eastern Europe to develop and test an application in the U.S. because we have devices residing in the U.S.

The second premise on which Perfecto was formed was the issue of automation. We wanted to provide tools that enabled developers and testers to actually automate the testing scenarios that they need to. That creates a much faster time to market and addresses the issues of quality in a much better fashion. We were able to prove this in the non-mobile world, and that's what we wanted to provide to the mobile world.

Let's switch gears a little bit. We were really excited about Google I/O 2014. One of the things that Google announced was their purchase of Appurify. They were one of your competitors. Why is this acquisition significant? What are the implications for the app ecosystem?

We were not surprised by this acquisition. We live in a world where mobile applications and services are becoming more and more important. Today, quality of these services is becoming a C-level issue. It's something that high level executives are looking into. It's something that is bothering everybody who's anybody, from a company's head of marketing, to the head of R&D, to the people who actually provide the services, everybody is concerned about these things.

Android is a very nice concept. It's an open system, it's very diverse, it removes obstacles, and it encourages creativity. It's a good environment to thrive in. However, because of all that openness there is a quality penalty. We are seeing that with customers. We are seeing that with developers who are complaining about the diversity of the platform. We see it with our enterprise customers and how they "suffer" from that type of diversity. I think that Google was listening to the market in that regard. They had to make a move. The move is not necessarily the acquisition of Appurify, but it's the thought that they need to provide developers, and testers, and whoever else is in the software development life-cycle, they need to provide tools around managing the quality of applications. That's the significance of this move. To us, it further validates that mobile is complex. Mobile apps operate in a complex and dynamic environment. Android is a macro-cosmos of that environment. We've been saying for a while that these issues need to be systematically addressed, from the early app development stages all the way to post-production. Google understands this. They made a move with Appurify. That tells the market that this is extremely important. We agree with that.

I feel like the announcement was glossed over a bit. The Appurify acquisition was mentioned, but then the keynote moved on without much emphasis on how important it was.

Quality is a necessary evil. It's not sexy, it's not hyped. It's just something that you have to do. Really and truly, you have to do it. It's not something you can just dismiss. If you do, it will come back and bite you and bite you really hard. Your competition will bite you. Your Google Play Store ratings will bite you. This is something that is extremely important. If your quality is bad, you won't get the usage you want. There's going to be churn. It's not something that you want to risk. If you don't make your moves early enough, you will get bitten. In Android, it's more complex.

It sure can be. What are some of the positives and negatives that you've seen, working with Google and Android?

Developing in the Android environment is quite easy. There are very few obstacles for you to create an application. I actually showed my 11 year old son how to do it, and he actually managed to create an application. It was really nice. He hooked up his own Android device and ran the application on his device. Then he said, "Wait a second, what about my sister's device?" and when he hooked that up, it didn't work. It was a different manufacturer. He did not know why it didn't work, but the fact is it didn't. He created an Android application, moved it to another device, and it didn't work. Google has managed to create, with their open approach, a very large community. Over 80% of the market. OEMs are happy to create Android devices, and people are happy to emulate Android on their devices even if they run a different operating system. All in all, it's the right approach. We like it.

The problem is, it creates difficulty around quality. It's not only the diversity. It's also the dynamic nature of Android. If you're a developer of an Android application, you release your app to the market, you've really made the effort to test it on the latest devices, and then Samsung comes with a new device, your app is already out there. There's a good chance that it's not going to work well. Apple keeps everything very, very right, so they suffer a little less with these things. That has its drawbacks as well, but in terms of quality, there is a challenge in the Android approach to the world. Companies like us come to address that. Google realized there are drawbacks in the Android strategy that needs to be bridged.

That example perfectly sums up the beauty and pain of Android development. Your 11 year old son, with a little training, built an app and got it running on his. That's amazing. Then he ran into issues trying to get it running on other devices.

I have to complete the story. My son immediately said, "Wait a second, you have Perfecto Mobile. Why don't you give me a log-in and I'll try it on other devices?" I told him, "Go to your room."

What kind of app did he write?

He was writing a Whack-A-Mole game. You know, the thing that pops up and you have to beat them with a hammer and you gain points that way. In his game, you touched the screen as they pop up to gain points. It was a simple application.

Perfecto Mobile just closed a $20 million round of funding in May of 2014. What does the next 12 months look like for the company? What's in the future for you?

The Google move with Appurify does us a lot of good because it exposes not only Perfecto Mobile in the market and it also exposes the need for what we do. It's not that customers today don't realize it, but a message like this, coming from Google, is really nice for us. What is also really nice is that now we are kind of left as the leading vendor for the solutions we provide. We have something that is cross-platform. We address Android with all its diversity, as well as the iOS stuff, and Windows, and even BlackBerry and other, more esoteric platforms that reside in various parts of the world. We provide the capability to serve enterprise in a very secure manner. That's something that everyone is really worried about. We provide the flexibility and integration into their own tools. We're actually enjoying something really nice, here. Android is complex, and the world is more complex than Android, and we getting all this exposure. It's really nice for us.

We're looking right now at the complete platform development life-cycle. Because of the nature of what we provide, we can provide additional services throughout that life-cycle. We're introducing tools for developers. We're introducing a new role called the Dev Test Guide. This is a person who will do the testing for developers. We're looking at security and to provide tools around security. We are looking to enhance our monitoring services with additional capabilities. We're looking at deployment aspects, and we're looking to gather information throughout the life-cycle and create enough information, and analytics tools, to enable people to make decisions addressing customers and users more quickly.

We anticipate growing geographically even more. Today we operate in North America, and Europe. We already have activity in Asia and in Australia. We think we have a great opportunity there as well.

Our plan isn't necessarily to get acquired like Appurify did. It's bad for companies to put in a strategy to get purchased. It does happen; companies get acquired. What we are doing is we are aiming as far we can to grow a very large company. We are very well positioned with all the enterprise companies we have. We aim for the skies and if somebody comes along, then that would be interesting to see what they can offer. But it's not in our strategy.

Either way, you come out successful. Thanks so much for your time, Eran. 

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About the Author

Jeremiah Nelson

Staff Writer / Podcast Host
Jeremiah Nelson has loved Android since the OG Moto DROID. He spends his free time listening to metal and flashing new ROMs.