Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, my name is Jay and I am the CEO of JDAQA, a quality assurance testing powerhouse. We’re a lean, scalable team of senior QA engineers and we work almost exclusively with startups.
I started out as a freelance QA engineer myself but began to delegate some of my tasks to external teammates I found through freelancing sites. Before I knew it, I had a solid team put together, and today our team has grown to about 20 people and our revenue has grown to $110K/month.
We specialize in partnering with startups that want to stay lean, agile, and fast - but also want to make sure their product doesn’t break as soon as customers start using it. We’re the scalable team that runs an assessment of their QA processes, revolutionizes it by designing manual and automated testing processes, and then implements the tests. We’re essentially a concierge QA service that can grow with your company.
Our mission is to ensure that builders can get back to the building, while we handle the bugs. In fact, we’re so passionate about “bugs”, that we donate a percentage of our margin to protecting bugs out in nature.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started my company because I was turned down by Uber. Long story short, I had just moved from Virginia to Pennsylvania and my license didn’t match the requirements of Uber. At the time, my wife was holding down the fort, working as a nurse, and I knew I had to help somehow.
I signed up as a freelancer on Upwork, figuring that I could piece together some income by working on QA jobs for small companies. I had about ten years of experience doing QA for gaming companies - and I used this to my advantage. I was taking on a few jobs and then one day I landed a new, bigger client and realized I needed to outsource part of the work. I went back to Upwork to find someone to help me, and before I knew it I realized I was starting to build a small, powerful team of QA engineers.
If a new client has a new requirement that somehow our current team can’t manage, I go looking for new team members who have that additional skill.
As we began to work with more clients, I discovered that while I love QA and all things tools-related, my real magic happens when I start to build a team and delegate tasks. We started picking up projects that I couldn’t handle, nor did my other freelancer. So I went back to Upwork and found more and more people, building the team as demand required.
I didn’t necessarily intend to build a company, but the work kept coming in: growing companies were looking for a solution to their QA needs. They weren’t big enough to hire full-time, internal employees, but they didn’t want to waste their time with the individual, inexperienced freelancers who might have really low rates but wouldn’t get the job done. They wanted to work with us because we were forming a team of really talented QA folks that had affordable rates, got the job done the first time, and could scale with the company.
I realized this was going to work when I started to identify the truly right people to join our team. If I have any talent, it’s that I can quickly identify who’s going to add value, who’s going to stay with us, and who’s going to take us to the moon. That’s why our team is so powerful: I meticulously interview our engineers and make sure they’re the right fit for our clients. I can slice through the fake signals, as I try to see: can they execute, are they honest, can they be loyal and work hard? This has paid dividends: our clients come back happy, and our engineers stay. 99% of the team has been with me since they started, some of them starting seven years ago.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I’ve built this agency with each new client. This is probably not the most convenient way of running a business, since I didn’t have a set idea at the beginning of what the company would be or how to plan it. The way I see it, JDAQA has been riding the wave of the rapid increase of entrepreneurship, and our company’s product is a really killer surfboard. In other words, our product is servicing bold entrepreneurs and growing companies to make sure their products work - and through each case, we learn more and more and develop our own institutional knowledge.
If a new client has a new requirement that somehow our current team can’t manage, I go looking for new team members who have that additional skill. We then welcome them to the team, train them in our processes, and work together to get them up to speed with the client.
Describe the process of launching the business.
After landing 20 clients as a two-person team in the very early stages, I realized we had hit upon something. Were we still just two freelancers or was this the beginning of a small agency? As we added more employees and landed more clients, that’s when I understood that we were forming a company. One day I gathered my family to brainstorm a name for the company, and then the next registered JDAQA as an LLC because a client needed that legal detail for their audit procedures. It was a very organic and natural process.
JDAQA is 100% bootstrapped and we’ve financed the business through revenue. From very early on, I knew that while the goal was to work with awesome companies and make sure awesome products reach customers in amazing shape, providing for my family and my team was going to be paramount. So we run each case with a very healthy margin - and both my team and the clients know this. We like to be completely transparent about this during the negotiation process and the assessment, which is effective in creating a layer of trust across all parties.
I’ve learned through this nimble and changing process of launching a business that some of the best businesses aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Great businesses can be iterative and improve on something - and that’s what we do with each new case. With every single case, we gain more knowledge about new industries, learn how to more efficiently implement testing processes, and improve the automated and manual processes of each new business that we work with.
In the very early stages, go to where you’re needed in a very direct sense - where people are asking for a product desperately and don’t have it yet.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We sell a concierge service and partnership. Work with us and you won’t have to think about hiring internal QA or picking up a freelancer who may or may not work out again. That’s how we attract clients - we tell them that this is a one-stop shop for your QA needs, which will 100% free up your and your developer’s time so that you can get back to what matters. That’s our pitch, and the way we retain customers is by fulfilling this promise and more.
Our clients stay with us because we deliver on our promises and are flexible and scalable. If they need more resources, we can go get them. And at the end of the day, they hire us so that their products can be released and maintained in the best shape possible.
This pays dividends - not only for the founders but for us! Because when they grow - because of their awesome products in awesome shape - we also grow! You can never 100% predict that your website/app will work as planned, but as a business, you need to make sure that your QA finds these mistakes first, well before your customers. I think that’s one of the mistakes founders make: they take the MVP approach and decide to iterate, but often the fact that their app or website might not work as intended can make them lose customers in the very early stages. You really at the beginning only have one shot at impressing your customer, and no matter how good your idea is or how good your product might be if when the bell rings the product can’t deliver, that could be a very devastating false negative. People might like your product, but if it’s broken as soon as they touch it, they’ll walk away.
So that’s where we step in. We thoroughly test products, design automated testing architecture to do this more efficiently, and develop lasting relationships with our clients in the meantime.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We maintain an above-industry average margin on each case. That’s one of the pillars of our business. We’re able to do this because our CAC is so low and we bake in our margin into the rate of the case as our first step in negotiating. Our clients know this and appreciate the transparency. And part of that margin goes to the bees!
At a very high level, our CAC is roughly $150 and the LTV is around 30,000. We don’t run any advertisements but instead, go directly to the clients on freelancing websites and some LinkedIn recruiting. We try to think of where a founder or a team might go to solve their QA problems - and meet them halfway to offer our services there. So this can range from Upwork to LinkedIn to Quora. At the moment, our website is probably our least utilized asset, since we do a lot of our customer acquisition out in the field.
Our current initiative is to expand our partnerships. There are a lot of awesome QA tools out there, some new, some old. We’ve recently been partnering with some amazing QA tools developers, to get trained on their software and be able to use those tools well. We’ve been pitching these partnerships to new clients as well: we’ll come in with an awesome tool built by our partner, and implement it on your app or website. This gives us more exposure to the entire ecosystem of QA, not just the implementation side.
Another initiative we have is to provide more project management abilities to our clients. Founders are looking not only for QA resources that can help free up their time to think about bigger problems but also for project management resources. Project managers can take ownership over segments of their product, which helps free up more space for the founder to specialize in the strategy of the company. We want to provide both services, creating a partnership that allows the highest level of a growing company to optimize their resources to do what they do best: focus on strategy and high-level questions about the market demand.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I’ve learned to stay incredibly nimble and to instill this level of flexibility within my team. Our company would be nothing without the willingness of the team members to ride through different waves of uncertainty, and different periods of trial and error as we fine-tune our processes.
As we’ve grown larger and have onboarded more clients, I’ve also benefited greatly from the divergent skills of the team. I think I’ve realized more and more that I’m the conductor of this whole show - and in fact, my ability to delegate and no longer do the actual work of QA has allowed us to shoot toward the moon. The combination of flexibility and adding on personnel who can take on more and more tasks has allowed us to provide services to companies that, in the beginning, I could’ve never foreseen we would deal with.
I think the bigger lesson I’ve learned is that people, not products make your company. We literally would be nothing without the amazing team members we’ve been able to onboard and join our family. We’re a people-first company - that’s our strength, that’s how we’ll grow, and that’s what we sell to clients.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I’m a huge tools nerd. That’s why I’ve been in QA for so long because I’ve been able to work with and get to know so many tools. For JDAQA, though, there are a select few that have been extremely helpful. At a high level, there are:
- Udemy - for continuing my own and the team’s learnings.
- LunchClub - for connecting with a variety of founders, and knowledge sharing.
- HootSuite - for managing social media.
- Slack - it’s just still the best tool for team communication.
- Zoom - self explanatory.
- Calendly - is the best tool I know for seamlessly booking calls with clients.
- Meet Alfred - LinkedIn sales automation.
- Octopus - similar to Meet Alfred.
- ActiveCampaign - smart CRM software.
- ClickUp - for tracking and sharing tasks across the team.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’m not a huge listener of podcasts, but one of my go-to books has been Measure what Matters by John Doerr. I’ve also been a big fan of reading some of Paul Graham’s essays on his blog. Twitter has also been a big resource for me, exposing me to the different methodologies of other entrepreneurs.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I would say that a lot of entrepreneurs go out there trying to push out a product that customers haven’t necessarily asked for or wouldn’t necessarily pay for. There’s great advice about this in a book called the Mom Test, where the author describes the trap of building something that your Mom/friends/family would compliment you on, but that customers wouldn’t be interested in. Instead, my advice is to go where there is demonstrated demand. Once you can pick up a few clients like that, you’ll be building great relationships and your business will change. But in the very early stages, go to where you’re needed in a very direct sense - where people are asking for a product desperately and don’t have it yet.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We’re always looking for more QA engineers depending on the trends of our clients. We’re also always looking to iterate and expand our business into new fields. If you think there’s a skill you have that we need to know more about, please get in touch at [email protected].
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below! Or if you're looking for an estimate for your team, please fill out this Typeform: https://t4wr3a62y8t.typeform.com/to/LuI1DMpU
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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