Yale startup catches Zuckerberg’s eye

Panorama Education, a technology startup founded by several recent Yale graduates, is gaining attention in Silicon Valley.

On Monday, the company announced that it has raised $4 million in funding from investors including Mark Zuckerberg’s foundation, Startup:Education, as well as SoftTech VC, Google Ventures, YCombinator and Ashton Kutcher’s A-Grade Investments.

Founded in 2012 by Aaron Feuer ’13, Xan Tanner ’13 and David Carel ’13, Panorama Education uses data analytics and feedback surveys in over 4,000 K-12 schools to address issues such as bullying prevention, school safety and student academic performance.

“Priscilla and I are excited to support Panorama Education and its mission,” Zuckerberg said in a statement. “Their company is an exciting example of the way technology can help teachers, parents and students make their voices heard.”

Other investors echoed Zuckerberg’s remarks, citing their enthusiasm about Panorama Education’s potential to improve K-12 education. Geoff Ralston, creator of Yahoo! Mail said he was impressed by the group’s ability to quickly provide schools with useful data.

Jeff Clavier, Managing Partner of SoftTech VC, said the founders are capitalizing on a huge market opportunity in data analysis and education.

“The service they have built in a few short months has generated a level of early traction that is very unusual in the [Education Technology] category,” Clavier said in a Sunday email. “In short, we thought Panorama Education was an opportunity too good to pass on in one of our favorite sectors.”

Panorama Education has come a long way over the past two years, said Feuer, who is the company’s chief executive officer. He recalled being a junior in Bass Library, brainstorming names for the startup company. Today, he said the company is studying over one million students in 250 school districts.

Feuer said the $4 million will help the company expand and hire additional staff.

Geoffrey Litt ’14, who works for Panorama Education as a software engineer, said the company had many ideas for the future but was limited by the number of employees and the resources of such a small startup. The money gives Panorama Education the freedom to move as fast as it can towards its goals.

“The dream is that we’re helping every school with feedback and data analytics,” Tanner said. “We are so far from that, but that’s we’re trying to do.”

Based in Boston, Mass., Panorama Education works with schools to distribute detailed surveys, analyze the results and report findings back to the institutions. Michael DiScala ’14, another software engineer for the company and a former web developer for the News, said not many companies generate and analyze the kind of data that Panorama Education does. Litt added that the company seeks to dig deeper into the data and use algorithms to find patterns, and then tell schools what the numbers mean.

In one school, survey results indicated a bullying problem among 9th grade boys, Feuer said. Using this data, in combination with other results, helps schools identify the problem and move toward a solution, said Feuer.

“If you look at almost everything in the world, there’s a really strong feedback loop,” he said. “Schools can’t improve unless they’re measuring things.”

All of the employees interviewed said the $4 million felt like a validation of their hard work and success.

Though the intersection of education and technology is a popular subject of discussion, Feuer said Panorama Education is actually integrating the two to improve schools.

“It’s really exciting for us because the people who invested in us are basically the leaders of Silicon Valley,” Feuer said. “Everyone’s talking about technology in schools, but no one’s actually figured out how to use technology to fundamentally improve schools.”

Panorama currently has seven employees.

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