Private school girls on an excursion.
Photo: Louie Douvis
School Places, an Australian online marketplace that lets parents hunt for discounted private school places for their children, has closed a $2 million investment round. With backing from local tech funds Square Peg Capital, Tank Stream Ventures and Rampersand, it will now expand its services beyond Victoria to New South Wales, and then nationwide.
The School Places website is pitched at independent schools, who can pay to list vacancies for prospective students, giving parents the opportunity to search for discounted school places. The site collate vacancies at participating private schools, with parents able to claim a spot at a potential discount of between 10 per cent and 30 per cent of the usual annual fee.
Square Peg Capital was a cornerstone investor in the business when the site first launched in April and School Places chief executive Natalie Mactier says the addition of Rampersand and Tank Stream Ventures demonstrated proof of positive momentum at the company as it looked to step up its growth plans.
Mactier says School Places had been very popular since it went live, registering 35,000 website searches on the company’s official launch day.
“The number of enquiries and applications for vacant school places we received in our first six weeks far exceeded our expectations. Over that short time, we estimate we have delivered more than $1 million in school fees to our partner schools, while the parents who have taken up these offers will save a total of almost $200,000 over their lifetime,” she said.
“Our next step will be launching in New South Wales mid-year, before expanding around the country by the end of the year.”
New approach to placements
Markus Kahlbetzer of Tank Stream Ventures issued a statement saying his fund saw education as one of the key sectors where plenty of industry disruption was yet to occur.
“The School Places platform solves a critical issue parents face when deciding to send their children to a private school, and we look forward to changing the way parents approach their child’s school placement,” he says.
Rampersand co-founder Paul Naphtali says he was not surprised by the early traction of School Places in the market. This was due to the simplicity of its business idea and execution, and the fact it had been an easy decision to invest.
“We think they have uncovered a massive opportunity and have built a model that adds value to both parents and schools, and we look forward to helping School Places further accelerate its growth,” Naphtali says.
The idea for School Places was hatched by company founder Jeremy Wein, 25, who wanted to apply the ease of travel websites such as Wotif.com to the complexity and expense of private school placements.
When the site launched, company chairman Paul Sheahan, a veteran private school principal, said the idea of waiting lists at many competitive private schools was often a myth.
“In all reality, if people are at all astute they’ll understand that everywhere has vacancies,” he said.
“I was running a school where competition for places was pretty high and this sort of myth of waiting lists was in fact that . . . there were one or two or three vacancies at the school where at the last minute it would have been helpful to fill them.”