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Published in Small Business

VNN to merge operations with Florida-based educational tech, media firm

BY Wednesday, March 02, 2022 10:54am

GRAND RAPIDS — VNN Inc., a developer of digital tools and media solutions for high school athletic programs, is merging with a tech company that has a long history of servicing the K-12 and college education markets.

VNN, which is headquartered in Grand Rapids and has an office in Minneapolis, announced today that it will merge operations with rSchoolToday, a Florida-based tech company that offers a suite of Cloud-hosted software and mobile apps. The two companies are longtime partners, and rSchoolToday offers a range of services for school administrators, including publishing websites, activity registration and scheduling.

Ehrman

rSchoolToday also provides a variety of back-office tools intended for athletic program management — such as scheduling, facilities management, registration — while VNN specializes in developing front-end solutions such as team websites, score reporting and digital ticketing.

The two companies will merge under the rSchoolToday banner and all VNN investors remain involved with the new, single organization.

VNN’s software products, including its marquee VNN SportsHub and Pressbox reporter, will be rebranded under rSchoolToday. The advertising sales and media side of the business will be branded as VNN Advertising Network.

Combined, the two companies will provide its technology to 40 percent of the high schools in the United States.

“All of the software pieces will be branded under rSchoolToday because that has a lot of brand equity with global high school athletic departments, but then the whole media side of it will be under that VNN brand name,” Romy Glazer, chief marketing officer of the combined company, told MiBiz.

The new company retains VNN’s local sales teams as the company redraws its territories. This means that longtime VNN clients, some the earliest of which are based in the Grand Rapids area, will see little change.

“To someone in West Michigan that has worked with VNN for a long time, they’re going to see the same face walking in the door,” Glazer said.

The leadership team for the combined company will be composed of executives from both businesses, including VNN’s Rick Ehrman as CEO, Glazer, and John Stchur as chief financial officer. The VNN executives will join rSchoolToday President Ray Dretske, Chief Operating Officer Mark Kevitt and Chief Technology Officer Zudi Isowanto.

“For years, our customers have been telling us, if we are to be successful in solving their problems, everything needs to work together in one place, with one set of credentials, and zero redundancy,” Ehrman said in a statement. 

“We’re proud of the work our team has done to deliver on that mandate, including the $2.3 (million) reinvested to schools through our advertising revenue-sharing program. Now, along with rSchoolToday’s industry-leading back office suite, we’ll be connecting the pieces together to provide an all-in-one solution that makes coordinating sports and activities effortless,” Ehrman said.

Founders Ryan Vaughn and Matt Anderson launched VNN in 2010 as Varsity News Network, which was intended to serve as a media company for high school athletics. Over time, the vision shifted to a blogging platform for athletic departments that eventually built up a suite of additional digital tools.

As the duo continued to develop more complex and effective ways to help high school sports programs operate, Vaughn became the face of the company, successfully convincing groups such as Grand Angels, Wakestream Ventures LLC, Northern Michigan Angels, Muskegon Angels, Capital Community Angel Investors and the Michigan Angel Fund to invest in the model.

Vaughn stepped away from the company in 2020 after VNN brought on Ehrman as the new CEO in the summer of 2019. Since the beginning of his tenure, Ehrman has eyed accelerated growth through M&A.

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