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BetaPunch.com: An Online Platform that Connects Start-Ups to Beta Testers for their Valuable Feedback

http://www.betapunch.com

BetaPunch helps connect startups with beta testers ready and willing to test their web applications and provide valuable feedback.

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We had a very fruitful, exciting and gripping interview with Mr. “Ross Nochumowitz“; Founder of the US (Baltimore, Maryland)-based start-up “http://www.BetaPunch.com” regarding his Company.

We have to admit that we really enjoyed this insightful interview and we learned a lot from the valuable answers that Mr. Nochumowitz was kind and generous enough to provide us with. We really look up to BetaPunch.com as one of our favorite start-ups that we have interviewed so far, maybe because we have something in common in terms of both our sites help out to boost and promote start-ups each in its own way.

Without any further delay, please find below the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. Nochumowitz regarding his start-up “BetaPunch.com”, Enjoy!;

1. What is it exactly that you do and what “BetaPunch” is all about?

The purpose of BetaPunch is to help connect startups with beta testers ready and willing to test their web applications and provide valuable feedback. We give startups the platform to present their product or service and we give beta testers vital tools and information about the startups to help them conduct their beta tests.

2. When has “BetaPunch” been founded? And what stage is “BetaPunch” currently at?

I launched BetaPunch in February of 2012, after working on a few prior small startups and ultimately pivoting to this one. Since that time we have grown our community to more than 660 members. We are in a public beta stage. So anyone can join to either beta test, submit their startup, or do both. So far we have almost 200 startups that have submitted their startups to be tested by our community.


3. What is “BetaPunch” business model and how does it work?

Our business model has not been implemented at this time while we still are in a beta testing phase ourselves. We have developed a “beta testing widget” that we are allowing startups to grab the code for and embed them into their own websites.

This widget will allow startups to transform their visitors into influential beta testers for their apps. Our goal is to eventually charge a monthly fee for the use of this widget. We are considering a pricing point of around $25 per month for an unlimited number of beta tests.

4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?

I am a solo founder, but I am not a technical founder. I outsource my startup development to a few different individuals. I have worked with developers and designers from all over the world: Lithuania, Australia, Pakistan, America and more. I have discovered these people through various freelance services such as vworker.com, freelancify.com and reddit’s /r/ForHire.

5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?

What is unique about our service is the way in which we conduct our beta tests. Most other sites within our market focus on text based feedback. While we think that this is a good method to communicate feedback it is certainly not the most efficient. 

Many things get lost in translation when it comes to providing written feedback. We feel the best for startup founders to get feedback on their apps are via recorded screen casts. 

Every startup listing on BetaPunch has a “Record” button for beta testers to launch and begin their screen cast. This allows the user to record their interactions as well as voice their feedback. You can see many examples of recorded beta tests at: http://www.betapunch.com/screencasts. 

Startups can also grab code for our widget which they can embed on their website. This allows the user to launch the screen recorder right from the widget. This means that startups don’t have to rely on solely the BetaPunch community to provide them with feedback. They can now convert their traffic into testers and even offer an incentive for recording a beta test.

6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “BetaPunch” achieved so far?

We currently have 665 registered users and 193 startup applications that have submitted to our database. We have been around for just 5 months and have done little to no advertising. The initial goal was to reach 100 users which we accomplished quite quickly. 

Originally the business model was to get startups to pay for premium listings on BetaPunch in order to gain more exposure. So our goal was to also acquire our first paying customer which was done within the first couple weeks of launching. 

We have pivoted from this business model so our new milestone we are striving for is perfecting the widget and getting that first startup to pay for the use of it on their website.

7. Who are your competitors? And what is “BetaPunch”’s competitive advantage over them?

StartupLift.com, Usabilla.com, EpicBagel.com, UserTesting.com, UserReport.com, UserVoice.com, and LuckyOrange.com just to name a few. 

The user feedback market is a very competitive industry but it is a massive market. Each of the above listed competitors tackles the market from a different angle.

We don’t believe in “paying for X # of testers.” We want startups to get as much feedback as possible because in the end it’s going to be what makes them or breaks them. 

Our screen recording tool allows for both visual and vocal feedback. Other sites who offer screen recording services only pick up on the mouse movements. 

Many beta testing sites pride themselves on showering you with analytics you can’t understand. Analytics can be good but they don’t provide the answers or tell you how to make improvements to your site. We think it’s better to make things simple and give startup founders the impression they are in the same room with the user as they interact with their site.

8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

The biggest obstacle is that I am not a technical founder. Because of this, I am forced to work with a slew of different developers and designers that specialize in various tasks. Then I have to bring all those different elements and mesh them together into a working site as I envisioned it. From my experiences in building startups in the past, I learned the hard way trying to use the same programmer for everything (including design).

Another obstacle I have to overcome on a daily basis is that this is not what I do full time. I have a regular full-time job that I work between 60-70 hours per week! As I mentioned before, I work with developers in different countries which means they are in various different timezones. 

This led to many long nights chatting with coders and guiding them through projects into the early morning hours. 

I think, for the most part, I have done my best to overcome these obstacles.

9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?

Many people think that someone creates a startup and becomes an instant success overnight. That is just not the case. When you hear about startups “making the big time” people don’t realize they go through weeks, months, if not years perfecting their product in order to make it “successful.”

This is where beta testing is so vital to the startup’s success. Without it, startups just wouldn’t be able to get to the highest level possible. 

When startup founders look at their site all day long they become so familiar with it that everything makes sense to them. This can put the startup founder in an awkward position when they release their site to the public and their users just don’t get it. 

It is important to launch, but do it quickly, and be prepared to iterate based off of the feedback you get from potential users and customers.

10. Why are you going to succeed?

I believe BetaPunch will be successful because we are constantly listening to our own users feedback, and constantly iterating our product based off of that feedback. 

I use the BetaPunch widget on our own website and pull in tons of great feedback from that. It’s important to listen to your users, because without them you have essentially nothing. If they don’t like your product they won’t come back. It’s that simple. 

I want to try and give our users as many reasons to keep coming back to check out new startups, and influence startups to show their apps to testers as soon as possible.

11. If “BetaPunch” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?

Mobile testing. This is something we are lacking, and haven’t had the resources to create the technology for. Mobile is where most people are taking their startups, and rightfully so since people are constantly on there smart phones.

We currently do not have an efficient way to help those with mobile based startups to test their apps. All our product can currently help them do is get feedback on their landing pages, design, and app concept.

12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “BetaPunch” based on?

I became absolutely fascinated by the startup world. Part of what impressed me most is how many people were taking to their keyboards and coding up new ideas. It seems like so many new tech startups are born daily. Specifically after “The Social Network” came out in movie theaters. Everybody was trying to become the next Mark Zuckerberg (including myself). 

This really validated, in my eyes, the growing market of startups in any space. I already knew from previous startup experience that feedback was so vital for everyone building their startup. It doesn’t matter if you are bootstrapping or you have over a million dollars in funding, you must acquire feedback for every area of your site. 

BetaPunch wants to be the #1 resource startups think of or go to in order to acquire that feedback.

13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?

I have learned that it is very difficult to cater to all of your users and please them all. The internet is becoming a place where users demand more features from startups and founders are forced into offering those services for free. It is very difficult to start a business online. 

Currently our service is 100% free. We hope to eventually charge a fee for our widget tool that users can embed into their sites. Only a handful of startups have chosen to place our widget on their website for free. This tells me that users want more customizations, and more features before they consider putting it on their own websites.

14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?

Staying motivated. My motivation entirely depends on the traction BetaPunch receives over the next 6 months. It is important for startups to understand that not every startup can be successful. For every Facebook success story there are literally thousands of failures (if not more). 

I am not afraid to pivot. I have done so before. And every startup should understand that pivoting isn’t a bad thing. This isn’t to say I am not confident in BetaPunch but I must be realistic. If you aren’t 100% into your startup idea after 6 months it’s better to think of something else and move on. 

This is especially true for a founder who has to outsource the development of their startup. It doesn’t make much sense to throw in more money into development if you aren’t getting the traction you are hoping for. So with that said I hope our community keeps gaining traction because that is what will motivate me through out time.

15. What’s the benefit for the user?

We cater to two different types of users: beta testers and startups. 

For beta testers, they get to find out and try out the latest in technology before anyone else. It’s a similar experience to getting a new gadget before any of your friends. You can ultimately try it and tell your friends your thoughts on it. People love being the first to try something out. We give beta testers that opportunity with a growing database of startups.

For startups, they get to tap into a growing community of testers who can become their initial user base. One of the hardest things for startups is finding those initial users. Startups spend so much time building they lose site of marketing and how they are going to get their product in front of new eyes. We also allow them to get feedback in the form of recorded screen casts which is, in our opinion, the absolute best way to receive feedback.

16. How did customers and/or users find out about you?

Most of our traffic has heard about us through twitter and reddit. Twitter has proved to be an awesome tool to reach out to new startups with. Every startup on BetaPunch has their own built in tweet buttons so founders and testers can easily share the fact their startup is live on BetaPunch and ready for beta testers to give them feedback. 

Also, our widget has built-in links back to BetaPunch so many people have found us through other startups who have put the BetaPunch widget on their websites.

17. Who are your current users? Who are your target users?

Our current users are beta testers and startups. We are focusing more on targeting startups as opposed to beta testers. 

The reason for this is that we have realized that startups want targeted testers for their apps. With the size of our current community, we can’t guarantee that for them. So we figured it was better to give them the tool to transform their traffic into their beta testers. That’s why we created the BetaPunch widget to place on their website. Now startups don’t have to rely on us alone to get them testers. They can now attract people via our widget to offer feedback.

Since our business model is to eventually to sell this widget, it is important to grow our database of startups as large as possible.

18. Where do new users come from and what makes new users try you?

BetaPunch prides itself on being as simple as possible to get started. Whether you are signing up as a regular user or submitting your startup neither process takes longer than a minute. 

We feel like our overall site design is very welcoming and easy to understand. We aren’t throwing a million features and buzz words in our users faces. 

For startups they are currently getting free exposure that they would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. All new startups get sent off in an email blast to our community as well. So they get to tap into our growing mailing list for free.

19. What do your users say about your product and/or service?

They love the overall design. I think that is where I get the most positive feedback. Other sites in our same market just don’t have the same aesthetic appeal. 

Startups who have been fortunate enough to receive a screen recorded beta test of their site have been very impressed. Many have been truly amazed getting to watch someone else use their site. It feels like a sports coach breaking down the film of their team’s game. It really makes startups see the bigger picture from an unbiased reviewer. 

As for our widget, the feedback hasn’t been quite as good. There are two main issues: 

1 is that there are only two styles (white and black). This doesn’t always fit into the startups site design. 

2 is that the screen recorder that launches from the widget uses java. When the user tries to launch the recorder there is a message that makes the user authorize the use of the java application to run in their browser. The feedback we have gotten so far tells us this prevents some testers from continuing with the recording proces.

20. How are you going to scale?

The biggest scaling issue for us is how we handle the storage of our screen recorded beta tests as more people start testing and uploading screen casts. 

We are currently using Screenr’s recorder and API which does allow us to scale our recording storage as we grow up to a certain point. If it surpasses what Screenr can handle we will probably have to look into our own dedicated server and building out our own screen recording tool. Or more simply just delete old screen recordings.

21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers keep asking for?

While startups and beta testers love our screen recorder they want to have their visits be automatically recorded rather than requiring the user to launch the recorder first. 

In order to do this, it eventually involves building our own javascript tool and becomes increasingly more difficult to capture voice along with mouse movements.

22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?

We are already accepting users and startups from all over the world to sign up and become a part of our community. We aren’t supporting any other languages other than english, but that hasn’t been an issue for us so far. It won’t be an issue for us to expand internationally although we are not actively pursuing it.

23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?

So far we are getting between 6-10 new sign ups per day. That isn’t lighting the world on fire but it’s a decent beginning. As mentioned before we haven’t done much targeted marketing but that will be done in the near future once we have improved our product more. 

I think the easier we make our widget to use, and the more features we build into it there is no telling how much BetaPunch could grow. A live chat feature, alongside the screen recorder, built into our widget would make the current widget we provide pretty valuable. No widgets on the market are currently offering a screen recording tool with voice, as well as live chat.

24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?

I am pretty content with the web developer and designer I currently employ. Since I don’t have outside funding it makes it pretty difficult to take on or hire somebody for fulltime or even part-time employment. 

If people wanted to get in touch with me about some future work I can be reached at Ross@BetaPunch.com.

25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?

I am not currently seeking partnership opportunities or outside funding. But that doesn’t mean I would be opposed to talking to people about it who were interested. For the most part, BetaPunch is self-sustainable. There is not a huge cost to run it on a month to month basis. The primary cost is in developing BetaPunch further and making it an overall better product for our users. 

For those that want to discuss partnership or funding opportunities I can be reached at Ross@BetaPunch.com.

26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?

Remember, ideas are worthless and execution is everything. Don’t be so focused on figuring out what the next great idea is because chances are it has “already been done” anyway. Discover what startups are doing and find out where they are lacking in their product or service and determine if you can execute it better!

27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

I appreciate getting the opportunity to be interviewed by start-ups.co. I love getting feedback about what is happening with BetaPunch. So if you have any questions or suggestions please do not hesitate to shoot me an email to Ross@BetaPunch.com. Thanks in advance for checking us out and becoming a part of our community.

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