She Elevated Software Testing to a Whole New Level — Meet Kristel Kruustük and her Testlions

Only five years ago, Kristel Kruustük founded Testlio, a company designed to improve and revolutionize the way software and app testing is performed. A year later, her team won AngelHack hackathon and her company was quick to expand. Now having reached over 40 countries, 65 languages, and 18 different platforms, Testlio is the face behind software testing for apps used by over 650 million people, and this is just the beginning. We had the opportunity to talk to Kristel about her accomplishments in the early phases of her startup, and we learned more about what makes her “Testlion” community so strong.

Walk me through the history of Testlio. What inspired you to become involved in software testing and what were the first steps you took toward building this startup?

I started my testing career back in 2010 when I was in my second year of college studying software development. Back then, some of my coursemates recommended testing as an entry level role to become a great developer, and so I followed that suggestion. However, I actually fell in love with testing as it allowed me to fully express my inherent curiosity and creativity. As a tester, you’re in between several roles and oftentimes have to wear different hats within the team, from being an investigator, researcher, explorer, etc. to the end user. I truly enjoyed communicating with diverse stakeholders to understand the product’s end requirement and prioritize accordingly.

From that point, I wanted to take my testing career further and gain more practical knowledge by working on different crowdsourced testing platforms. Unfortunately, my experience on these sites was not as satisfying as I thought it was going to be—I always believed that in order to release a successful product, real collaboration was key and that was sorely lacking, not to mention that testers’ time was undervalued and underpaid. I shared this pain with my then boyfriend Marko (now husband), and together we thought of ways to improve the processes. We ended up putting our ideas to the test by participating in the AngelHack hackathon. We won, and Testlio was born.

Looking back nearly 5 years since the company’s founding, do you feel that your original startup mission has been accomplished?

Testlio’s mission is to deliver amazing customer experiences and change the way QA is done through higher quality, faster delivery, and stronger partnership. Five years ago I couldn’t predict how far we would come today. Founding a company so young means having no point of reference, but even though I’m sometimes plagued by doubts, I have to trust in my gut feelings and the people I surround myself with. I always tell myself that the decisions I make are the best possible ones at that moment, given the sum of my experience so far. We still have many hurdles to jump through in order to become the market leader, but the journey is underway!

How do you manage your team of testers? Is there a certain criteria that needs to be met?

Currently, our expert freelance network is comprised of over 200 testers from 38 countries. Our dedicated community team makes sure that our “Testlions” (as we refer to all of us part of Testlio) are kept engaged, involved, and valued. Our main criteria is quality—potential testers go through practice test cycles which, on one hand enables them to get acquainted with us, and on the other hand gives us the opportunity to gauge the quality of their work. Every newbie gets a dedicated mentor who helps guide them through the whole onboarding process. As a tester myself, creating a vibrant collaborative ecosystem where other testers can cultivate their skills is extremely important to me.

What are some of the most notable takeaways you’ve had from this experience of building up Testlio? Shortcomings and successes?

It has a been wild ride, one that I didn’t expect to be on but that I’m really enjoying! I have learned along the way what it means to be a leader (still learning!), how to always be self-critical and leave my ego to the side for the bigger picture. I’m proud of what we have achieved so far and I believe our success is reflected in the success of our clients. The products in our QA portfolio touch over 650 million users worldwide and we have the pleasure to work with great companies such as Microsoft, Strava, Salesforce, Lyft, NBA, Concur, CBS, etc.

What advice would you give to women who are interested in creating a startup?

As a woman, I naturally strive to empower other women to try out a career in tech as well—everybody wins when different and unique perspectives are included in the mix. My advice is to not let yourself be defeated before you even try, go for the things you want to do, not what others say you should do.

Do you have another project in the works?

From a long term perspective my goal is to make sure we become the market leader. Currently I’m focused on growing and nurturing the Testlions community.