Whenever there is a web application under development, one will need periodic testing to verify functionality. Given the speed at which development happens, it is necessary to speed up this testing and this is where automation helps. Sahi is an automation tool focused specifically on web application testing. Browsers are not easy to automate; however, web technologies and browsers are evolving at a rapid pace and Sahi makes automation of these technologies possible and easy on all browsers and operating systems.
These were the technical details around the product, here's the story.
V Narayan Raman is a seasoned professional who had his first brush with entrepreneurship back in 2003. That startup bombed and he move on to work for ThoughtWorks in Bangalore in 2005 where he was dabbling with open source. He started working on Sahi, an open source web automation tool focused on testers. Sahi was well received and seeing the traction, he started Tyto as an organization providing commercial support for Sahi.
Since I was the almost the only contributor to Sahi, ThoughtWorks graciously allowed me to own the copyright to Sahi. Eventually we moved to Sahi Pro, the commercial offering of Sahi.
Tyto was registered and Narayan decided to dive full time in January 2009. The initial model was providing commercial support for open source Sahi but he soon realized it will not work as a long term revenue model. "Since I already had a working product, I spoke to some of my users whether they will be willing to buy the product if I added a few specific enterprise features. When some of them agreed, I worked on getting a version out," says Narayan. Meanwhile, he had hired another developer and they provided integrations with another tool from which they got working revenues. "We did not try to get more customers till we were comfortable with the stability of the product. However we did get traction from the already existing open source product," he adds. Tyto hasn't done much of marketing but the product is so solid that when users switch jobs, they tend to take along the product into the new organization. And that is a contributing factor in how Tyto ahs grown.
Tyto has been trusted by a large number of enterprise customers of all scales and has more than 200 enterprise customers in total.The interesting thing about Tyto is that it hasn't raised funding and has been profitable from year one. The launchpad that ThoughWorks provided certainly played a pivotal role in making this happen. "We have been profitable from the first year. We do run our business very frugally. Our revenue model is based on sale of Sahi Pro licenses which is priced presently at $495/user/year (changing to $695 from October 14). We have had 100% year on year revenue growth and 80% of our customers come back for renewals and for more licenses," says Narayan.
The team has also grown and the current strength stands at 14 people. Tyto has 7 developers, 3 support engineers, 1 tester, 2 marketing/sales people and 1 office admin. "There is not much hierarchy and all of us pitch in where needed. The products team (Narayan himself and Srinivasan Venkataraman) and Anuj Khanna in marketing have almost 15 years of experience each and are very capable executors," says Narayan.
There is a lot of competition in this area. There are open source tools and commercial tools. Talking about the subject, the founder says, "Sahi has been acclaimed as a technically solid yet easy to use tool. Given the complexity of the field however, not many tools have gotten it right. We currently have the technical and design pieces right. But we lag in our marketing and this year we are trying to bridge that gap. Competition is good according to me. It keeps us on our toes and forces us to innovate. There are always multiple ways of solving a problem and some may like your way. Dealing with them gives a mutually beneficial business."
Sahi is a great example of how open source and a commercial model can co-exist. We asked Narayan on how this came to be and he had this to share with respect to Sahi:
Tyto is currently raming up its marketing to broaden reach and on the product side, they are moving to native mobile and native desktop application space. So far the growth of Tyto could be attributed to the strength of its product including that derived from its open source version. "In the near future, we have a new version coming up which has incorporated a lot of customer feedback. We are working on highlighting our customers’ success stories especially in BFSI, retail and product companies, to other prospects in various verticals and show how they can save time, money and effort by using our solutions," says Narayan.