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K​iwi tech start up launches new software to help schools communicate

Arrowtown-based tech start up Virtual Industries Group are looking to help schools communicate more effectively with staff, parents and students with a new Software-as-as-Service product.

Message My Way was developed by Virtual Industries Group’s owners, husband and wife duo Nicole and Greg Fawcett. Nicole is a teacher in Arrowtown and Greg is a web developer.

Message My Way is a cloud-based service that allows schools to communicate with parents, staff and students instantaneously, via numerous platforms.  

Instead of schools relying on sending emails, making individual phone calls or paying for an expensive app – which not all parents have access to or download – Message My Way delivers the message to the platform selected by the parents. This includes Facebook Messenger, Twitter, the school’s Facebook page, messaging apps like Slack, Kik and Telegram, as well as more traditional methods like email, SMS/text and voicemail.

According to Greg, it’s the only software of its kind that offers voice messaging and direct social media messaging.

“We built Message My Way to solve a common problem that schools face in communicating with their communities and to make the lives of teachers, admin staff and parents easier,” he says.

“Message My Way takes the hassle out of an essential, time-consuming, element of a school’s daily operations.”

Greg says the product was designed for schools to easily upload their databases to the software.

“The software has the capability to create lists into highly specific categories, which enables schools to create complex lists, if required,” he adds.

“It also has an easy-to-use parent interface so they can update contact details at any time, plus staff can send messages out from home, if required – for example on a snow day, or an event cancellation,” Greg says.

“Plus, the system is simple enough so there’s no specific expertise required from staff.”

The service costs $199 a year (GST inclusive) for a school of less than 500 people, and $299 for 500-999 people. 

Non-urgent messages are always free to send, but urgent alerts may incur carrier charges if parents choose SMS/text or voice as urgent options. These charges (between 3 and 12 cents) are passed on to schools at cost, and schools can reduce them even further by encouraging parents to switch to free alternatives like Facebook Messenger.

The couple are the creators of School Interviews, which has been embraced by more than 1100 schools throughout New Zealand since its inception in 2009. School Interviews is also used by more than 2600 schools in Australia, North America and the United Kingdom.

According to Nicole, both School Interviews and Message My Way were inspired by conversations with Arrowtown School management – and developed to meet different needs the school faced.

“Arrowtown School is very tech-savvy and they’re always looking for new ways to do things better and more easily,” she says. 

“It’s been fantastic to be able to work closely with them to create software products. They’ve been really engaged throughout the whole development process, which means that Message My Way has been built with the needs of schools in mind,” Nicole adds.

Greg adds, “We’re thrilled to be launching Message My Way as the new school year begins for 2017.

“We’ve designed it in a way to bring schools and parents together in the way parents want – it’s a simple and modern way to communicate with parents.”

Competition for schools

Virtual Industries Group is offering free Message My Way accounts to five schools for one year. To enter, schools simply need to send an email to explaining an occasion when they wish they had had message my way at their school. Entries close on March 7.

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