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Chris Cardell

Interview with David Brannan (Exam Professor)

Exam Professor is a quiz creator to manage your own online exams.

I interviewed David Brannan, Exam Professor founder to find out more. This is the hundred and seventy seventh in a series of startup interviews. Big thank you to David!

How would you describe Exam Professor in under 50 words?

Want to publish exams online? We’ve got the answer!

What gap in the market did you discover that persuaded you to launch Exam Professor mid 2006? Do you have any experience teaching?

I am a high school teacher who loves working with students. I was trying to save myself time so I could teach more and grade less, but in 2006 there were few solutions for building, publishing, and managing online exams quickly. I eventually partnered with two other wonderful programmers (David Shadovitz and Laura Arguello) and we’ve been busy ever since.

How different is the current version of Exam Professor compared to your initial launch?

We are in the process of rolling out our 5th version in 6 years, so you might say a lot has changed. We are consistently upgrading our software in very small, almost imperceivable ways, and over time it has really improved. The story of the tortoise and the hare comes to mind – we are definitely the tortoise.

Exam Professor is used by educators, businesses, and other professionals, who do you feel is your main target audience?

Exam Professor was originally developed with secondary schools, colleges, and universities in mind. However, most of our paying clients turned out to be small businesses training, certifying, or hiring new employees. This was initially a surprise to us, but it does make good sense to continue training your own work force to maximize production.

Have you received positive feedback from the teachers and students who use Exam Professor?

Most people that use our software simply love it, and will tell us often. We love hearing from people using our software, and we enjoy seeing how it is being used around the world – often for things we never would have imagined.

How do you differentiate yourselves from your competitors?

We have been around long enough to workout all the bugs, learn how to scale, and adjust our software to please the widest possible audience. We have focused on speed, reliability, ease-of-use, and it shows. Many new clients that come from other systems are delighted that Exam Professor just works, when it’s supposed to, every single time. Apparently in our business, that is difficult to find.

With the knowledge you have today, would you do anything different if you were to start-up Exam Professor again?

There are many things I wish we had done differently, but nothing we have not been able to fix, rebuild, or toss out and try again. That’s what’s wonderful about software development – you can always change direction, albeit expensive at times.

I believe life is messy, crazy, and full of surprises. It should all be embraced and cherished – you have to keep moving forward. If you reach the end of your life and you still do not have any regrets that would be sad. If you are pushing the limits things are bound to go awry once in a while.

Where do you see Exam Professor in 5 years time?

We believe creating a high quality product is the best way to pay respect and responsibility to the users of our product, which in turn drives sales. For over 6 years we have invested all profits into research and development. Last year our sales grew 128 percent, which has allowed us to develop faster, add more features, and be more innovative. If we can keep growing, investing, and developing over the next five years – well, who knows? Maybe we can finally pay some serious taxes.

Is Exam Professor available for mobile?

At present our teacher and student interfaces are built using Apache Flex, which has the capability to work on mobile devices. We are now focused on building a new student interface in HTML 5 and Angular JavaScript. We feel strongly that students should be able to use Exam Professor on any mobile device without installing yet another app.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

We are a private company that has received no outside funding, which means development has been slower than I would have liked. There is an upside to limited funds, however. Any feature we add is truly needed, strategically planned, and cautiously executed. I think the end result of this approach is better software. Our product may not have every feature under the sun, but what we do offer works extremely well.

What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?

I think this notion of overnight success is an urban legend, and very misleading. If you’re starting something new, expect a long and challenging journey.  I am well aware that my family, relatives, friends, and even my partners are thinking I may never give up trying to make Exam Professor wildly successful, and I’m okay with that.

A man needs a good project to be happy.

Finished reading? Check out Exam Professor!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 at 11:41 pm GMT. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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