How Rainforest Made a Successful Pivot Asking Customers One Question

May 7, 2016

7:00 pm

What would you do if you started noticing that your startup is finding little success? Stats indicate that it’s unlikely that you’d be able to stop the company from failing. In Fred Stevens-Smith’s case, however, he simply couldn’t let that happen.

Back in 2012, Stevens-Smith noticed that Rainforest, the company he founded, was about to fail. Its main product – a service that tracked how much a company was spending on  Amazon Web Services – ended up being something that clients had no need for. So, in what can be thought of as a risky move, he decided to take action.

Via email, he asked all of Rainforest’s beta users a simple question: is there any need you have that you would gladly pay $1,000 per month to have fulfilled? Surprisingly enough, most of the answers were similar, and what those users really needed was help with quality assurance (QA). Stevens-Smith saw the opportunity and started closing deals with some of those users right away.

Four years later,, Rainforest has 58,000 testers all around the world, who are employed as needed and test any app’s new features or design, having feedback ready for the client in 30 minutes or less. The company has also raised $16 million in investment capital in the beginning of this year, with companies like Zenefits and Soylent as some of its clients.

With Rainforest, clients with the need to test a new app or site, for example, have all the needed tools in one place, along with an army of testers standing ready to deliver lightning fast feedback. The client can also specify other requirements, such as the operating systems or browsers to test their stuff on, to make sure that every scenario is covered and accounted for.

Fred Stevens-Smith believes that Rainforest has the potential to eliminate the need for companies to have their own QA teams; that can be costly and limited. Small companies will not be able to hire one of these teams, and big companies will have that ability but will eventually run into those limitations. So, this is a great market niche for Rainforest to explore.

For the future, Stevens-Smith is already thinking on what automation can take in this process. So much that Rainforest is already working to train artificial intelligence (AI) to do so, by having it learn how humans use apps. He hopes that, in two years, eight of every ten of Rainforest’s testers will be robots.


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25 y/o, born and living in Portugal. Majored in Biology, but tech and computers were always a passion. Wrote for sites like Windows.Appstorm and MakeTechEasier.

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