CourseStorm, a startup in Orono that provides course-registration software to education organizations, recently reached a significant milestone: It now has more than 100,000 students from across the country using its platform to book classes.
Brian Rahill, CourseStorm’s CEO, tells Maine Startups Insider that not only does the startup have more than 100,000 students using its platform, but that those users come from all 50 states.
“It’s another great milestone for our fast growing company,” Rahill says. “And we’re just getting started.”
The company has been bootstrapped to this point (besides assistance from the Maine Technology Institute in the form of a seed grant and development loan), but now that the company is demonstrating traction in the marketplace, Rahill says they’re preparing to raise their first equity round to really ramp up the sales and marketing effort.
While students are CourseStorm’s end users, its customers are small-to-midsize education organizations that utilize its online course-registration software platform. CourseStorm collects student registrations, process payments, and helps the education providers market their local classes. CourseStorm has customers in 31 states, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Local customers include MaineHealth and York Adult Education. The average new client on the CourseStorm platform has grown their course revenues by 15% in the first year, according to Rahill.
The 100,000-user milestone is significant, though, because CourseStorm has a unique transaction-based revenue model. It gets paid every time a student enrolls for a course on its platform.
“So we operate on the same side of the table as our customers—they want to grow and enroll more students, and we want them to grow too,” Rahill says. “Everything we do in CourseStorm is to help them reach out to more students and grow their revenue—and our revenue.”
Currently, CourseStorm’s annual revenue is under $1 million, according to Rahill. He says the company could be profitable, but instead he and his co-founder Matt James are pouring all available cash back into the company’s sales and marketing efforts.
“This is classic SaaS (software-as-a-service) financials, so while we are early stage, all of our revenue is recurring and therefore we build on our base of customers each year,” Rahill says. “This compounding effect starts to make an exponential growth curve as we go out a few years.”
In addition, Rahill says the software platform is “sticky” and so customers rarely leave once CourseStorm signs them up.
Lisa Robertson, director of York Adult Education, a CourseStorm customer, says the software platform has helped expand the organization’s reach.
“CourseStorm’s smooth online registration and e-marketing system have helped our program grow, reaching beyond our community to the rest of the state and actually out to neighboring states,” she says. “CourseStorm operates just like a trusted partner—they understand our needs and continue to improve the system, simplifying my job of marketing courses and leading to increased enrollments.”
CourseStorm spun out of RainStorm, a software and website development firm in Orono. Rahill’s co-founder, Matt James, left RainStorm last year to commit full-time to CourseStorm, and Rahill did the same earlier this year. They also have a third employee and an external sales team.
While bootstrapping the business, Rahill says he and James embraced the lean startup mentality and have conserved cash while running inexpensive experiments, speaking to customers and iterating based on the results and feedback from the marketplace.
Besides the MTI funding, Rahill says the company has also benefitted from other stakeholders in Maine’s startup community, including the Maine Center for Economic Development’s Top Gun program and the University of Maine’s Scratchpad accelerator.
“There are amazing people here that are always willing to educate, advise and roll up their sleeves and help,” Rahill says. “The lessons we’ve learned from others have made the biggest difference in getting us to this point.”