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Finnish startup Usetrace joins prestigious US accelerator

Usetrace’s innovation is an automated testing tool for web developers. Not only does it reduce time spent on testing, but also frees up developers’ time for product development.Istock.com / akindo

Usetrace has developed its cloud-based test automation tool for web developers since 2012 and is now on the verge of a big breakthrough. In July it became only the second Finnish startup to join renowned US accelerator programme ‘500 Startups’.

“We believe this is the best accelerator programme for a company like us,” says Eero Heino, Usetrace co-founder and CEO. “They have highly qualified staff and a strong portfolio of past successes.”

Heino has reason to be excited. 500 Startups is ranked as one of the top five accelerators in the world and has worked with hundreds of ambitious companies. The four-month programme gives Usetrace (and its test automation software with the same name) access to world-class mentoring, workshops and a wide contact network. Furthermore, all accepted startups will receive a 100 000-US dollar investment.

“The fact we can learn how to better explain our vision, to plan efficient growth trials and expand our reach in our main target market [is very valuable],” Heino explains. “The biggest names in our sector have already been speaking here.”

To fully benefit from the experience, three of Usetrace’s five-member team moved to San Francisco in July to join the programme. It is major feat as under four per cent of applicants get accepted by the accelerator.

Self-learning system

Usetrace was born in 2012 when Heino and co-founder Arto Vuori grew tired of laborious test programming slowing down digital product development. Today the startup counts over 60 companies in eight countries as customers, including a major Finnish digital learning solution provider, Sanoma Pro.

“Usetrace was founded to enable as fast product development as possible so software engineers can focus their time on creating added value for their customers,” Heino says. “We have helped Sanoma to speed up their development 12-fold and achieve annual savings of 220 000 euros.”

“When one customer shows Usetrace how a certain test is done, the same test is available to all our customers. The learning speed is huge,” says Heino (right), explaining how the company’s test automation tool works. Image: Usetrace

How does this work in practice? The artificial tester doesn’t require installations or coding, but learns its tasks automatically. All a developer needs to do is use their app or website like their customers would (fill in forms, browse the site) and the cloud-based software learns to repeat these actions over and over again. Any faults in the user experience are revealed quickly. This is particularly helpful after updates and [SMS] alerts can be sent if problems are detected.

The end result is time spent on testing is reduced and developer resources are freed up for other tasks while end-users get faster access to the latest services and upgrades.

Science-fiction future

While Usetrace has had a good start, a great product alone is not enough to crack the global market and this is where 500 Startups steps in. Usetrace is particularly looking for help to boost its marketing skills and online growth.

This is also where Heino sees the biggest differences between startup cultures in Finland and the US. Both are full of enthusiasm and hard-working people, but the starting points can be miles apart.

“Technological expertise is very strong in Finland and many people start programming at a young age. My dad and grandmothers are programmers and I have always been surrounded by computers,” Heino describes. “In the US the strength is storytelling. People seem to learn at birth how to talk about something in a way people can relate to.”

Usetrace is already practicing the latter as Heino paints a picture of the startup’s future. While its current focus is on automating processes in software development, this is just the start.

“First we will expand to other tasks and areas in the digital world and then we will move to the physical world,” Heino summarises. “With artificial intelligence and automation we can make physical processes more efficient and leave more time for creative work.”

Usetrace is ready to think big.

By: Eeva Haaramo