The BizSpark startup of the day is AlertFox Website Monitoring, based in Germany. Below you will find an interview with Mathias Roth, Managing Director and Co-founder of AlertFox. All the best to them and congratulations for being the startup of the day!

AlertFox

Website: www.alertfox.com

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Tell us who you are and your role in the company:

I am the Managing Director and Co-founder of AlertFox.

What did you do before creating your company?

Before starting out on my own, I worked for the business software giant SAP, where I was responsible for the design of HR-specific databases. I got in touch with computing during by master thesis and Ph.D. work, which was around pattern recognition for artificial electronic noses.

How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?

We are very honored to be on this prestigious list. The positive recognition is fantastic and provides great encouragement to all of us.

What is your company’s mission?

The core idea of AlertFox is that it is about time to disrupt the stale uptime monitoring market by applying the latest advances in web automation and computer vision to website monitoring, and to provide excellent, friendly support whenever required.

Most website owners have had this experience: Your old-style monitoring system shows nothing but green lights, yet the website is not functioning the way it should: Traditional website monitoring services do not dig deeply enough to detect glitches in the application code, or database or to find the problems that arise with bugs in Ajax, Flash or Silverlight front-end applets.

The only way a webmaster can be certain that his or her website will work is to, well, use the website like a real user would. Nothing else will be as accurate.

The AlertFox Real Browser Monitoring does just that: We run real IE and Firefox web browsers in the cloud, so our users can see how their websites perform from a real user perspective. AlertFox uses computer vision to keep tabs on the function and performance of all websites, even those that use complex HTML, AJAX, Flash, Flex, and Silverlight.

How did you get the idea for your company?

I am the original author of iMacros, a popular open-source and commercial web automation tool with hundreds of thousands of active users. iMacros is like a Swiss army knife for web browsers, it has many uses (form filling, data extraction, web testing,…).

Over the years I noticed that many users asked us how to use iMacros to monitor the functioning of their website. The reason for that was that most available website monitoring services can only report on the uptime and page load time of a website, but cannot detect e. g. if a shopping cart breaks in Firefox due to a Javascript issue or if an Ajax drop-down fails due to a database connection problem. So many website owners struggled to create home-grown monitoring systems.

However, setting up such real browser monitoring yourself is not trivial, and it requires dedicated server hardware to run web browsers non-stop. So the idea of AlertFox as an easy-to-use, hosted service for real browser website monitoring was born.

Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?

AlertFox is self-funded. We are not looking for outside investments at the moment, but we are always open to discuss interesting partnerships.

How many employees do you have? How many developers?

We are six people right now. Five of them in development.

Are you hiring?  If yes, what are you hiring for and where?

We are always interesting in talking with creative and motivated people. Definitely, contact us at jobs@alertfox.com if you are interested in working with us.

Which platform are you building on?  Why?

AlertFox runs iMacros on the backend monitoring servers (iMacros Player, iMacros Enterprise Bundle). The backend consists of Windows 2003 R2 and Windows 2008 R2 servers (both 32-bit and 64-bit).

1000s of browsers are opened and closed all the time. All browsers are controlled by the iMacros Web Scripting interface. The website and test services are created in C++, C# and ASP.NET. The database is MS SQL 2008 R2.

Using Windows server and ASP.NET was a logical choice for us, since we had extensive previous experience with C# and the Microsoft development tools are very powerful.

Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/Internet area?

I am convinced that SaaS offerings will take off in the next years. The ease of setup and use of many hosted applications, from email to time tracking to CRM is just amazing. It helps organizations focus on their core competencies, relieving the additional infrastructure overhead that comes with on-premise apps.

In my opinion, growth will accelerate further once the legal framework (privacy, security, data ownership, cross-border legal issues) has caught up with the technical development.

We do our part to help SaaS companies grow by watching over the performance and uptime of their web applications.

What do you think about the BizSpark Program?

It’s a great opportunity for startups, and I really commend Microsoft for their attention to this community. It is a welcome extension of the positive attention that Microsoft has given to the classic shareware community over the last decade.

Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?

Aim to build a software or service business that provides real value to your customers. Users all over the world are happy to pay for quality products and will recommend you further.

If you are just starting out, I recommend reading some of the many good tech blogs, attending at least 1-2 conferences a year and maybe also join trade association like the Association of Software Professionals (ASP).

Who’s your role model?

Richard Feynman. I recommend reading “Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman” to everyone.

What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?

No matter how simple or complex a site is, every serious website owner needs an effective external monitoring service. AlertFox has launched with these users in mind, too. Therefore AlertFox not only offers paid full-service accounts for professional users, but also a completely free website monitoring plan : http://www.alertfox.com/free-website-monitoring/ 

Check out our profile on

Find AlertFox on BizSpark Connect

Published: 5/18/2011 12:09 PM
Company: AlertFox