EMBAmbassador Stories: Meet Dan Burns

Like Dan Burns, take the first step into your entrepreneurial journey and learn more about the Executive MBA in Innovation & Business Creation today.

While many companies had to scale down during the pandemic, Dan Burns, co-founder and CEO of TESTIFI GmbH, watched his company grew stronger every month of 2020 – after his idea for automation had been rejected at a previous corporate role. Several years have passed since he finished his Executive MBA in Innovation & Business Creation at the TUM in 2009, during which he not only was rewarded with a thriving enterprise but the title of AMBA Entrepreneur of the year 2021. Looking back he opens up about his journey and what it means to start an own business, with all its ups and downs.


After finishing the Executive MBA in Innovation & Business Creation and freelancing for two years Dan Burns received a project offer in Munich 2011, which became formative for his entrepreneurial endeavor. It was a massive Agile project and he was tasked with creating the Agile Testing Approach.  He proposed an approach based on automation and integration – and was told that they did not see the need for Test automation. “I couldn’t believe it, we parted ways and the project went on to ‘burn’ a huge amount of money and a lot of the wastage could have been prevented if they had implemented some of the measures that I suggested, “ says Burns .

At this point a vision for his own company started taking shape. He continued working as a Test Manager while sharpening his skills: Reading 70+ books a year, developing his own self-help program called “Fired-up-Life” and looking out for potential partners. In 2015, he met software developer Henning, with whom he co-founded TESTIFI in 2017, which rapidly grew into a full-time company only two years later. “Finding someone that you can trust to build a company together is one of the most difficult things to do, it took us four years of intensely working together before we were finally ready to take that step”, Burns recalls.

In 2020, the world was hit by the Corona pandemic, but TESTIFI grew the team to 18 people and acquired projects with some significant Blue chip companies. In 2021, the company employed a team of 34 people from 16 different countries. When asked how to successfully set up a company, his answer is as down-to-earth as his CV: “There are many paths to success as an entrepreneur, it depends if you have industry experience, or a good idea, or indeed just the motivation to make something up. For me, it is less about a concrete skill and more about having a ‘toolbox’ to dip into.  The toolbox then gives you the confidence to deal with unknown situations, to learn new skills and resolve your problems.  As you deal with tough situations then you build the kind of grit and resilience that, in my opinion, is essential for long-term success.“

Keep learning is a fundamental principle for Dan Burns leading him to the Executive MBA program at the TUM. “The goal of an MBA is typically to expose you to a large number of different topics, ideas and schools of thought instead of going deeply into one topic alone. The Executive MBA in particular focuses on the principles of lean start-ups and this is an extremely powerful way to bring certainty to the unknown.”he explains. “The Executive MBA is an invitation to change your life. It is not just about the stuff that you learn or even the people that you will meet. It’s about taking a conscious step towards redefining your life. Embrace the uncertainty, be open to knowledge, information, mindsets you will be exposed to and you never know what will happen. It took me 9 years after my EMBA experience to finally start my company, for many it’s much less.”

For him, the TUM has given him more than expertise. He is a fan and active member of the Executive MBA IBC Alumni network, serving as the chairman for 7 years. “I believe in the value of building the network and have always drawn inspiration from my fellow alumni and in some cases that results in tangible and concrete business growth and opportunities.  There is definitely some truth in the saying, your net worth is a reflection of your network.”

For future entrepreneurs and TUM Alumni he recommends three simple principles: “Start now – do not wait for perfect conditions. Don’t be afraid to fail – Failure is only a problem if you stop. Be relentless – most people massively over-estimate what is possible in the short term, but they will equally massively under-estimate what is possible in the long term.”

Dan Burns shows us how success is based on and tied to the combination of knowledge and innovation. His company exemplifies the benefits of merging established processes with the new perspectives and novel approaches Start-Ups have to offer. His journey is the story of the significance of carving out your niche in the market and pursuing your idea, by building on the grounds of experience, continuous learning and maintaining your focus on the long-term goals rather than short-lived success.

Like Dan Burns, take the first step into your entrepreneurial journey and learn more about the Executive MBA in Innovation & Business Creation today.

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