One of the chief bottlenecks of the adoption of online education has been the lack of ability to handle testing in a secure fashion. ProctorU addresses that gap and is growing at a nice clip.
Sramana Mitra: Don, let’s start at the beginning. Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? Where were you born and in what kind of circumstances? It sounds like you have multiple co-founders, so if you could also introduce the cast of characters, that would be great.
Don Kassner: My name is Don Kassner. I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area. I studied and taught at San Jose State University where I earned my bachelor’s and master’s in Economics. In 2005, I had the opportunity to take over a small accredited correspondence college in Birmingham, Alabama called Andrew Jackson University. I moved out to Alabama to take over as President and converted the university from paper-based to wholly online. During that time, I hired a guy named Jarrod Morgan. Jarrod became the Director of Technology.
In 2007, the students were very happy with the new online format, but they were unhappy with the fact that they had to go somewhere to take an examination. I had a student tell me once, “Don, I can do all my coursework at my kitchen table. When the time to take an exam comes, I have to go somewhere. I’m already stressed out and this is quite a hassle. Can you guys do something to fix this problem?” I went out to the marketplace and evaluated a couple of solutions, but there wasn’t a whole lot out there that met our specific needs. Jarrod knew what I was working on and said, “Let’s buy a couple of webcams and start playing around with it. I think we can do it on our own.” We did that and by mid 2008, we had something rolled out to our students. They were very pleased with the results.
In late 2008, we took the new developed service to an education conference at Notre Dame University and presented it to a group of about 100 schools. When we were done with our presentation, those schools were all very interested in what we were doing. Instead of asking us to show them how to do it, they asked us to actually do it for them. So an opportunity was born. In early 2009, we formed an LLC and we started to develop ProctorU into a service. We found our first school in early 2009. By late 2009, it was clear that ProctorU was going to take off and develop quickly; so we made the decision to divest ourselves from the university. We sold that off by late 2010 and focused all our efforts on ProctorU. Since that time, we have had significant success going from a complete startup to a point where we’re doubling revenue every year. We have over 300 employees and over $10 million a year in revenue.