The humble school newsletter is getting a digital makeover with the help of iNewsletter, a service created by two IT professionals who noticed a potential in Australia’s education market.
Blake Seufert and Michael Bates launched iNewsletter earlier this year when Seufert was working as the Systems Manager for McKinnon Secondary College. He realised that most schools still relied heavily on dated models of communicating with their students and the wider community, so went about looking at products such as Adobe Digital Publishing suite to help solve this issue. What Seufert found in the process however was that these programs were too complicated and expensive for schools to operate.
From this realisation he quickly devised his own service that would allow interactive school content to merge with the simple and fast compilation of a digital newsletter. Efficient copy and paste functions, one-click publishing, user-friendly editing and complete mobile device compatibility was the result.
Why this particular format?
“An email newsletter is limited by size because no one wants a whopping big email they have to trawl through. Also, most email marketing platforms are designed for sales – selling a product or service, not celebration of the great things the organisation like a school is doing,” says Bates.
Raising capital and forming a partnership came naturally for the pair. They say that their passion is to bootstrap and always focus on simplifying their products and business. Their ambition is not to build a large complex company but rather a small and highly efficient one.
“I’ll always remember how Blake pitched the idea to me – he took me into the storeroom next door, closed the door, and told me his idea,” says Bates, who didn’t take much convincing as they had previously worked on the now defunct fashion app ONME together.
He says that another motive behind the idea came from the fact that many companies who currently wrote software for schools sell average software at a high price. “We want to push those boundaries and create software that’s awesome to use, completely changes the norm, and doesn’t cost insanely large amounts,” says Bates.
“Our biggest barrier is lowering the cost to reach schools and sell to school principals.”
This is an important selling point in the education market as schools are continually becoming more cash strapped. Blake and Seufert knew this early on and devised a pricing model to help generate their revenue. The service makes this revenue by selling a subscription to schools who pay a plan based on their student population ranging from $90 per month to $170 per month for 250 to 2,500 students respectively.
Regardless of this pricing point which can act as a double edged sword in this rough environment, there is an advantage in that Bates and Seufert are fully aware of the absence of competitors in their niche market – a point which affords the duo some vital breathing space.
“Blake still works full time, but I have just recently left my job to focus on iNewsletter,” says Bates.
“When we launched iNewsletter we were both working full time, so it meant we had to work many nights to get the product ready. Luckily costs weren’t a huge issue at the start because being a SaaS product, the initial outlay wasn’t too bad.”
Bates reveals that iNewsletter is just the first step in their plan and they’ve got a raft of easy to use and inexpensive products lined up for the future. He says that they’re currently working on a intuitive integration tool for Trello and Gmail, a simple email marketing tool and a unique social web app to showcase projects.
“Ideally we’d like to have a lot of small self contained projects and show everyone that you don’t need venture capital to make awesome stuff.”