The Perfect Storm

When Brian Rahill started RainStorm, Inc., about 16 years ago in Orono, he probably had no idea that today, a spinoff company would count the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York as a key client.

But that’s exactly what’s happened with CourseStorm, a solution for providing online course registrations for places with informal education opportunities. Unlike similar products that service large, formal organizations like universities, CourseStorm works with summer programs, libraries, museums and the like.

“There’s a plethora of small- to medium-sized organizations that really need help to get the word out about the classes they’re offering,” said Rahill, CourseStorm’s CEO. “It’s a way for these organizations to promote their classes and for students to easily find them and register online.”

Rahill said that he and co-founder Matt James realized the market opportunity after a successful RainStorm project with the Maine Adult Education Association a couple of years ago. RainStorm had developed an online course registration system for them, he said, “and it was incredibly successful for them, they…grew their programs, enrolled more students, increased their revenue. We realized there was a market for this, and not just here in Maine.”

So Rahill and James, a University of Maine alum who worked at RainStorm as head programmer, retooled the software into a more simple turnkey solution. The goal, said Rahill, was to make a system so simple that if an organization in Kansas decided they needed online registrations immediately, they could get up and running with their catalog and start taking enrollments in just a few clicks.

Today, in addition to MoMA in New York, CourseStorm counts clients in 37 other states and has processed over 100,000 student registrations from every state. The business model is simple: CourseStorm operates on a percentage of the transaction, with no upfront adoption or subscription fees for the course offerer.

“It’s nice because it puts us on the same side of the table,” said Rahill. “They want to grow their enrollment, and we want to help them grow their enrollment because that’s the way we make revenue.”

The meat of CourseStorm’s success could be in its robust features. Not only does the system get an organization’s course registrations online, it promotes them through email marketing and automated tools that reach out to potential students when registrations don’t meet a certain threshold.

“Overall, our clients fill more classes and cancel less classes,” said Rahill. “What we’ve found is when [clients] go from an existing or no registration system over to CourseStorm, they grow about 18% in their first year on average and have about 12% to 15% growth year over year after that. It’s the sum total of having these marketing tools that helps them get more students into their classes.”

CourseStorm closed an investor round last December and raised $750,000 in an equity offering. Rahill said they are looking forward to using the funds to grow the business through concerted sales and marketing.

“We’ve worked slowly over time to build the product and get to where we are today,” said Rahill, “and now with this infusion of cash we can ramp up our efforts to reach a lot more organizations, get CourseStorm into all 50 states and really grow it. That’s the goal.”

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