Curtis Palmer

Curtis Palmer

The online proctoring service is growing rapidly, like much of the city’s tech sector.

by André Natta


Curtis Palmer received an invitation to attend a ribbon cutting ceremony for ProctorU’s Pelham offices in March 2012. The former president of TechBirmingham, the nonprofit organization tasked with nurturing the local tech scene, had been serving as an unofficial mentor for the company while doing consulting projects across the country.

ProctorU’s founders Jarrod Morgan and Don Kassner started meeting with Palmer shortly after he left the nonprofit, when they were first thinking about spinning their company, an online proctoring service we’ve previously profiled in this space. The trio met out from Andrew Jackson University about once a week for coffee, usually for an hour. Palmer says, “Jarrod likes to point out that he doesn’t think he ever bought me coffee.”

“Someone was recently looking at the photo from the event here in the break room and said, ‘Wait, you were there?’” He was, and now he’s there on a more permanent basis.

Palmer recently accepted the position of VP of Operations for ProctorU after serving as an independent member of its board of directors. He received the offer while reaching out to Kassner for a reference to get another position elsewhere.

It’s not like Palmer ever left Birmingham completely. After stepping down from the tech organization six years ago, he’s still kept in touch with many of the entrepreneurs he’d helped connect to one another. It was something he wanted to be a part of himself.

“I wanted to get into being an entrepreneur again. I wanted to benefit from some of the work that I’d done.”

While ProctorU is viewed as a tech company, Palmer points out it’s a different others in the region. “It’s outside of the local tech model in the sense that it’s an “over the mountain” company that hires from all over the region. It’s a 24-hour-a-day operation, which also isn’t normal.”

Probably the most significant difference involves how he views the company in relation to the rest of the ecosystem. “We have all different skill sets, but we’re a job engine rather than a tech company. We are heavily reliant on technology,” says Palmer. When asked if that distinction is something we’ll see more of moving forward, he said, “It depends on the business model. We’re providing a service that can be provided by lower wage people. We have 80 people working in the office right now—a lot of them are still in college. That in its own right is a little different for a tech company.”

It’s a much different scene than it was seven years ago, when teams were running around downtown Birmingham with their Blackberry MotoQs, acting out clues taped to light poles, attempting to compete in a game of Urban Reversi during the Sidewalk Film Festival. Members of the metro area’s still emerging tech community were having a lot of fun playing this digital version of Othello while also getting to introduce themselves to those not familiar with what was starting to happening in town.

Fast forward to the present day, and the city has recently been proclaimed “the Silicon Valley of the South”—a label many have long assumed it deserved, including Palmer.

When asked about the state of the local scene, he said, “I see growth despite the [state of] the world economy around us.” He said his role with TechBirmingham “was to get it going where it could be self-sustaining.” He then pointed out our conversation was taking place the day after a press junket of tech reporters had visited the company’s offices in Hoover. They’d had their first meeting of the trip the night before, during Birmingham Startup Drinks.

“It was perfect. That’s the kind of stuff that’s continued, and I’m glad that I was a part of it early on,” said Palmer.

Now, he gets to help take it to the next level as an active participant.

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