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Apple acquires Testflight: Meet a local start-up solving a similarly testing problem

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 | By Rose Powell

Managing beta testers for iOS apps that aren’t approved for or listed in the official app store can be challenging. So much so this app consultant and freelance developer has launched Installr, a software platform designed to make this critical step for start-ups easier.


Serial entrepreneur Jeff Bonnes is the founder of Melbourne-based consulting and development group Geeks Inc. He previously built and sold Find a Babysitter to Fairfax.


He told StartupSmart the pain of coordinating the beta testing phase for many of his clients drove him to develop a way to automate the service. Many of the current offerings require the developers to log in and approve each beta tester once the software is downloaded.


“It takes about 20 steps to run a beta test for a mac app without software like this. I was running two beta tests, one with farmers and one with financial planners, and getting emails at all hours. I realised there had to be a better way to do this,” Bonnes says.


The software was built over the summer holiday and launched in late January. Over 100 clients are using it on subscription model where the price is set by the amount of beta testers.


“We’re still finding bugs in it. It’s amazing when you get people from all over the world. You think we’d all develop apps the same way but we don’t. There are small technical differences between the ways apps are formatted,” he says.


Installr is solving a similar problem to Testflight, which was acquired by Apple this week. But an acquisition exit is not part of Bonnes’s hopes for this product.


“I don’t think I want Apple to buy it because I’m passionate about cross-platform apps,” Bonnes says.


“Also, real innovation doesn’t come from people who get bought, it occurs around the edges. The reason guys like us and Testflight exist at all is because we feel and use the pain developers feel to create new products.”


Bonnes says as Apple doesn’t tend to play nicely with other tech companies in their ecosystem, he was particularly careful to ensure Installr was within the terms of service.


He adds the biggest risk for this start-up is Apple developing its own beta app store and system.


“But even if they do, there is probably still space in the market for another, more nimble player,” he says.


The plan for Installr in coming months is customer acquisition and a focus on Android expansion, with a batch of new Android features out soon.