Why we think it’s time for Carousel GOLD

Whole Class Feedback Report (part of Carousel Gold)

If we’re being honest, the level of interest that the teaching community has shown in Carousel since it launched has taken even us by surprise. Nearly 10,000 teachers have come on board, and many of these early adopters have gone out of their way to test early versions, respond to surveys, or just email us with advice and ideas. It is a cliché, but it also happens to be true: we couldn’t have done it without you, and we are so chuffed that Carousel is helping teachers in the way we hoped that it would.

Part of our dialogue with you was to get your input on pricing. The response to our survey on that topic was incredible, and we have given considerable thought to what you told us about the right timing and price for a paid version of Carousel. So in the same spirit of sharing, we thought we’d write a blog that explains not just what our pricing will be, but also how we got here. So, let’s think back to a time long, long ago…

Imagine you have a great idea for an edtech product. Like, ooh, I don’t know, a retrieval practice and quizzing tool, for example. You know what you want to build, you’ve got a catchy, fairground-themed name, and you think people will like it. But now comes the tricky part: you’ve also got to come up with a business model that makes it sustainable. What are your options?

We had this conversation when we started Carousel, and there were three at least semi-sensible options we could think of:

  1. Charge for it from day 1.
  2. Make it free for the first few months, then move to having a free tier alongside paid-for tiers, with extra features in the paid-for versions.
  3. Make everything free for a couple of years, and raise investor funding to cover costs while we grow.

Option 1 is the most well-trodden path in schools edtech: people just don’t commonly launch a budget planning tool for MAT Finance Directors and give it away for nothing. But we felt like that wasn’t for us because:

  • Carousel is for teachers, and unlike MAT Finance Directors, teachers don’t always have bulging budgets to spend on cool tech.
  • Many of our peers (Quizlet, Quizizz, Quizalize, and even some products that don’t have the word “Quiz” in their name) have a partially or wholly “free to market” strategy, and so people have expectations that quizzing tools should be at least somewhat free.
  • Google and Microsoft offer ways of setting up simple quizzes, and while they’re not really “free”(schools pay for their licenses and devices), they often feel free to users, as you’re not paying directly for the quizzing functionality.
  • We genuinely believe Carousel improves outcomes, and therefore we want as many teachers and students using it as possible.

Also, we got a government grant (thanks Innovate UK!), so we had a bit of early funding which helped cover our cashflow needs for a while. But we couldn’t kick the can down the road forever.

Option 3 is pretty popular in the edtech world, but it comes with challenges, too. Craig Barton has blogged brilliantly about how Diagnostic Questions / Eedi struggled through the lean years when no money was coming in. Even the mighty Quizlet, which is now worth $1b+, isn’t actually achieving this valuation because of its quizzing features. In the words of Techcrunch:

As for why a flash card business could be worth a billion dollars, it isn’t. But an AI-powered tutoring platform could be, and that’s exactly what Quizlet is focusing on as a core product move in the foreseeable future.

Or, to put it another way, to build a profitable business, Quizlet has to become a different business, which takes more and more investment and which may not work.

So, good luck to Quizlet, but we don’t want to become a different business. And while we are sure that we’ll expand into new and exciting areas in the future, what excites us is retrieval practice for schools, because we think it improves student outcomes, and we’d love to perfect that before we move in other directions. We haven’t raised external funding yet, and if we ever do we want to get it from people who share our core vision.

So that left us with option 2, and we think it is now the right time to introduce a paid-for version of Carousel alongside a free tier. It’s early enough that we can bring in revenue before we get forced to do things differently by external investors. But, at the same time, we’re also far enough along that we think we can justify the price tag of the new, paid version through the the cool, new features we’re offering in return.

And so, welcome to our new Carousel pricing tiers:

  • SILVER is the new name for the free version that you already know and love, and which contains everything that you got from Carousel before, but with a few usage caps that shouldn’t affect most users.
  • GOLD is the new premium individual version, which comes with loads more features, including an independent learner mode, whole class feedback reports, question banks from John Catt Educational, and a tonne more.
  • PLATINUM will be the department / school / MAT version and will launch in the summer. It’ll come with everything that’s in GOLD, plus organisation-wide features like MIS integration, multi-user accounts, the ability to share question banks between colleagues, and aggregated reports across classes/year groups/schools.

We think GOLD will work well for individual users, whether that’s schoolteachers, tutors or homeschoolers. But our dream is for as many of you as possible to persuade your department or school to take on Carousel PLATINUM. As Adam said in a recent blog about questions and curriculum, “Students who don’t do regular retrieval practice because they don’t have a resource which helps them do it are students who are being set up to fail.”.

To help you convey the benefits of Carousel to your school colleagues, we’ve decided to offer all users who sign up before 5th April 2021 a completely free, no obligation Carousel GOLD subscription until 31st August 2021. So, if you’re trying to persuade your head of department or budget holder to buy Carousel for the next academic year, you can use the full-fat GOLD version of the product at no cost until the end of the summer. We’ll even help you to talk them round. And while PLATINUM accounts aren’t live just yet, we are already able to give you a good sense of what they will be like, and we’re already taking pre-orders. So, if you think a PLATINUM might be what you need, we definitely want to hear from you!

Sooooo (drumroll please)… Here’s our pricing!:

  • SILVER will always be free.
  • GOLD will be: £60 per user per year, reduced to £50 for 2020–21 as a special introductory offer for new signups, and to just £36 per year for early adopters (those with accounts registered before 5th April 2021). NB all GOLD prices are inclusive of VAT, so if you’re able to pass on the cost to your school, they’ll be able to reclaim the VAT element.
  • PLATINUM pricing is exclusive of VAT and will be:
  • £150 flat fee plus
  • £50 per teacher for the first 5 in a department
  • £20 per teacher for teachers 6–30
  • £10 per teacher for teachers. 31–50
  • Optional £60 fee per annum for MIS integration
  • Cap of £1,200 per school.

(Reminder: SILVER and GOLD are for individual users, while PLATINUM is for departments, schools and MATs. Full details on price and what each tier includes is available here.)

Oh, and importantly we’ll refund the full annual subscription fee of any gold user who helps to persuade their department or school to take out a PLATINUM subscription.

We think that’s very competitive, and we hope you’ll agree it means that there’s a plan that works for everyone. We’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to tweet at us @Carousel_Learn or drop us an email at hello@carousel-learning.com with any comments you may have.

And, once again, thank you for the tremendous support you have shown to Carousel thus far. We hope you are going to stick around for the next chapter.