You might think that the days of New Jersey companies starting as “side hustles” are over, but that’s far from the truth.
NJTechWeekly.com recently interviewed Justin Trugman, an entrepreneurial software developer, who is developing a software testing startup called SoftwareTesting.ai in Hoboken in his spare time.
In fact, he has advanced SoftwareTesting.ai enough that it’s almost ready to launch. During the process, Trugman used some time-tested techniques: developing a minimal viable product, putting it out there for people to use, and then waiting until they say they want to buy a more robust professional version.
The idea for this company came to Trugman while he was working for Caregility, an Eatontown-based software company in the healthcare industry, where he is currently vice president of software development. He explained, “I have found that rapidly growing companies with rapidly expanding teams have two competing priorities. There’s one priority which is that ‘we need to develop new features that we need to ship quickly so we can land new business and increase revenue. On the other hand, ‘we must figure out if we are going too fast and sacrificing quality along the way in order for us to get these features released and capture that revenue opportunity.’
“There’s a metric in software development called ‘code coverage.’ Say, ‘I have 100 lines of code, and it achieves a certain output X.’ There are tests that you write against to make sure that you’re returning the expected output and accounting for things like: ‘If I put in the wrong input, do I get the right type of error handling or error message from it?’ These test frameworks engines that actually run those tests against the code compute the code coverage metric, which is essentially, ‘out of those 100 lines of code, how many lines are actually covered by the tests?’”
Trugman wanted to figure out how to cover those lines of code that were not covered by the tests. “I’d been thinking about this for a while, and I developed some core technology for it in the late fall of last year,” he said. “Then I launched it for free on the Visual Studio Codes (VS Code) [ a source-code editor made by Microsoft] marketplace because I wanted to know if it was any good. After all, this was a problem that a lot of teams were encountering. Currently there are over 500 users, and I want to commercialize it.”
The new version is currently pending approval to go onto the GitHub marketplace as a GitHub app, he said. “The tool looks at your code and tests, and it tells you: ‘These are the code coverage gaps that you have, and here are suggested fixes and suggested test cases for covering that code.’”
What differentiates Trugman’s tool from others out there in the market is that his artificial intelligence (AI) technology has trained the tool to account for context, he said. What a lot of tools are doing is “having the user identify what areas of code they need help with. Say for example, they need help with refactoring or adding test coverage to line six, they’ll just give line six to the AI, and they won’t give it a creative prompt. It won’t be trained specifically for test cases and it’ll give you back garbage,” he said. “With this [tool], I specifically trained it on test cases and testing best practices. Also, you get the context of the full file that is being questioned along with the context of your testing coverage and gaps.”
NJTechWeekly.com asked Trugman if he is thinking of trying for funding. “I’m doing this on my own for now. And what I’m thinking about doing potentially is taking this full time and really running with it. I don’t think I need to raise VC or angel just yet because I’ve been leveraging my own skills in my spare time and a few good contractors. I want to launch it, put it out there and do a real test. People are saying they’re willing to pay for it, but it’s another thing for them to put their credit cards down.”
Trugman began his entrepreneurial journey in his freshman year of college at Stevens Institute of Technology. He developed a company at the Stevens Venture Center and worked very closely with Adrienne Choma, who then headed the Center. That company, called “Blink CDN,” was based on a research project designed to make “live” video actually live, instead of the latency experienced by anyone who’s participated in a Zoom meeting during the pandemic. The team included Trugman; Mukundan Iyengar, an associate professor in Stevens’ Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and two other Stevens faculty and students, according to a Stevens article.
Recalling Blink CDN, Trugman said, “We raised around half a million from Verizon in research-oriented funding. And it was going well. After we raised our second round from them, Verizon killed the division we partnered with. We tried to repurpose that technology and it didn’t end up working out commercializing it.”
As Blink CDN wound down, Alphabet’s Project Loon came calling, and Trugman went to work for the tech giant. Although he was working out of Google X, however, it still felt like a big, monolithic company and that it would be a challenge to get projects done fast. Trugman then transitioned back to startups when one of his professors and cofounders at Blink CDN came calling with an opportunity at Caregility, “one of the leading virtual care platforms. I’m currently their VP of Software Development.” This was the experience that led him into software testing, trying to deliver software faster while improving the software quality.
What’s next for Trugman? He plans to keep working on his side hustle, and if customers actually buy the professional version of the software, he’ll fully transition it to his startup company.