Academic swot and study…..simplified

By Peter Kerr 28/02/2012

It’s not the first time that Dunedinite Rodney Tamblyn has been involved in an internet-based business.

But, as he looks to take his team’s web application for on-line academic study to the global market, he is looking for a different name to the OB3 moniker it currently has. (See the OceanBrowser site here).

That’s just one of the tasks for the tool whose first target market is medical.

Tamblyn’s spent a year on further development of OB3 (see sticK story here and here).

‘OB3 is a web application for working with study and documents,’ he says. ‘It’s designed around the processes and activities students and teachers use while studying online, with beautifully simple features for creating, sharing, and collaborating together around complex content.’

Coming from New Zealand’s most heavily-oriented university city, Tamblyn’s strongly aware of the academic level of processing information. From gathering, organising, summarising and collaborating (discussions) and producing an output (essays, exams), ‘it’s like interlocking wheels,’ he says.

But, unlike in previous times where students would use sticky notes and bookmarks, with books spread out over a table to help with their learning and writing, people want to do this electronically nowadays.

Throw in multimedia, and time-starved participants in medical learning, and there is a ‘pain’ that Tamblyn’s looking to ease. ‘This product solves a real problem that we know academics and students are facing,’ he says.

Though the medical profession (and its ongoing professional development) is OB3’s first target, other academia are also in his sights.

Over the last couple of years the team has grown to 9 people, 4 fulltime, as the project has ramped up. Tamblyn says ‘for OB3 we’ve put equal emphasis on design and engineering, tested beta releases extensively with our target audience to be sure it’s going to meet their needs.’

‘Ultimately, customers have an expectation of a very high standard, certain type of activity, an elegance in the tools that they use,’ he says. ‘To get noticed, used and not discarded, the bar is higher.’

Especially for the education market ‘you’d better be good.’

And though a new name is important, it isn’t as critical as the marketing and sales and ultimately relationships to be developed in getting the product to market and used by academic institutions around the world.

Already over the last six months sales have been strong. Tamblyn is using a licencing model, with organisations paying a fee on an annual basis according to the scale of the operation and what they’re trying to do. He describes it as a software as a service type business.

Tamblyn also (luckily) enjoys the sales process — talking to people, finding what they need, what their problems are. By acting as a connection between customers and the design and development team he is able to help build a better product.

Over the last few months ‘we’ve worked hard on streamlining our processes and preparing the company for growth.’
He’s working to ensure they have an equal focus on developing the business and the product.

‘My primary role is in sales and business development these days,’ he says.