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December 9, 1999

Ten Fast Facts

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A high-tech training company founded by Mark Kembel in 1997.

Offers certified training programs for software testers, Web developers and e--commerce technical employees.

Headquartered in Bellevue.

Fast Fact #1: interTest.com originally was known as InterTest Labs.

Comment: Kembel rechristened his company as a dot com earlier this year when it invaded the e-commerce market. When Kembel launched the company, it trained only software testers. Six months ago, it added Web development courses. Now, it is preparing to produce employees specifically for e-commerce companies. "E-commerce in this area is huge," says Kembel.

Fast Fact #2: Kembel is marketing his e-commerce training program directly to employers.

Mark <span style='background-color:yellow;color:black'><b>Kembel</b></span>
Mark Kembel
Comment: Expanding e-tailers such as Amazon.com and HomeGrocer.com are starving for skilled employees, says Kembel. "There are just no more resources out there for technical people," he says. Kembel is pitching an e-Commerce 2000 Training Partnership Program in which employers pay a discounted fee to send a certain number of employees to interTest.com for training. Participating employers also receive discounts for onsite training at their facilities and can hold free hiring fairs at interTest. Kembel hopes to sign his first contracts soon.

Fast Fact #3: Students also can register independently for the e-commerce program.

Comment: The resumes of those students will be made available to companies that participate in interTest's e-commerce partnership -- saving them the expense of hiring head hunters to find candidates, notes Kembel. Some of the e-commerce prerequisite courses already are being offered. Advanced courses added specifically for the e-commerce program, such as Active Server Pages and Dynamic HTML, will begin in early spring.

Fast Fact #4: Kembel says sales have grown 300 percent a year every year since he founded the company.

Comment: Although he wouldn't reveal specific sales figures, Kembel noted his office staff has grown from one employee to eight in the last year. That doesn't include instructors, who generally hold full-time jobs in the industry and teach part-time.

Fast Fact #5: About 500 students have graduated from interTest.com since 1997.

Comment: Their placement rate is 90 percent, says Kembel. Most of them have joined his former employer -- Microsoft.

Fast Fact #6: Kembel came to Microsoft as a college intern in 1987.

Comment: When he returned to Eastern Washington University after his internship, "I knew more than the instructors did. I was on the cutting edge." Kembel later went to work full-time at Microsoft, then jumped to Hewlett Packard, then returned to Microsoft, where he was a testing manager until he "retired" in 1995 to write a book. The privately published "Basic Internet Software Testing" is now required reading for interTest students.

Fast Fact #7: Kembel left Microsoft right after Windows 95 was shipped.

Comment: Having cut his teeth on Windows 1.0, Kembel says he "saw the Windows revolution coming right there from the very start." He also saw Microsoft change as it grew. "The atmosphere when it was smaller was a lot more fun," says Kembel. "We had more access to Bill in those days." The Christmas parties in the early '90s were "amazing," says Kembel. "They'd have seven bands and rent out the entire convention center."

Fast Fact #8: interTest.com's success has exceeded Kembel's expectations.

Comment: "I never expected to have a nice office," he says while seated in a spacious corner suite with a view of Lake Bellevue. Besides writing his book after leaving Microsoft, Kembel worked as a training consultant, which is what led him to launch his own training firm. interTest.com now has two training labs at its headquarters in the Webforia Building on Lake Bellevue plus another lab in the ASR building on Bel-Red Road. Adding the e-commerce program should help sales increase by at least 500 percent in 2000, says Kembel.

Fast Fact #9: Kembel wants interTest.com to expand nationwide.

Comments: "I've had one venture capitalist already put his card in my hand," says Kembel, who has taken on a handful of partners over the years, but still controls the company. His preference is to be acquired by a larger firm rather than invest the time and money required to take interTest.com national himself. For now, however, he wants to reap the opportunities presented by the local e-commerce market. "I've still got a ways to go yet," he says of his goals for the company.

Fast Fact #10: Kembel envisions retiring if he sells interTest.com.

Comment: Unlike his previous "retirement," the 43-year-old Kembel plans to take it easy this time, managing his investments, playing more golf and traveling. "I'm not starting my own business, I'll tell you that. It's a lot of work!"

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