I'm about to release a software as a service targeted at university students. Through the university I currently attend, I was able to export the global email address list (this information is publicly available to students) of every current student listed, which is around 40,000 people.
When I release my service, I plan on sending personalised (their full name is also listed) emails out to small groups whilst the application is in beta and slowly increasing the amount of emails I send out as I want more students to use the site.
To me, this seems like a gold mine but I have a couple of questions to the more experienced members here:
Is this email list as valuable as I think it is? Is there any ethical issues concerning sending emails out? These would be one off emails. (see my edit below)
Would it be wise to send them from my sites email address rather than my personal university address in case there is any backlash from the university? (I've read of a few peoples trouble with universities around here)
Thanks for any opinions!
Edit: According to ACMA (I'm from Australia) sending commercial emails without prior consent would not be allowed. However, if I was just requesting that people test my website (no fee would be involved) would that be considered 'commercial'?
1) Access to the list does not mean you have permission to use it or any legal ownership of that list in any way. For example in any EU country it would be flat out illegal to use a list in this way.
2) It is almost certainly not as valuable as you think it is. Why do you think an unsegmented list of 40,000 odd people is valuable at all? Lists of random people who have not opted in are not valuable in the slightest. Lists of people that are interested in specific things and gace opted into getting email about those specific things are valuable. Lists of random people are (a) cheap as dirt and (b) illegal to use in most places.
A better idea would be to do some marketing at the University (stands, flyers, chalk the pavement/whiteboards etc.) and get people to opt in.
As you do, you can grow your opt in list by social media and encouraging your subscribers to share the service with their friends. If you really have something valuable to Uni students, you should be able to grow the business this way without spamming.
This way you are also developing proof that you can build an audience and that people like what you have built.