New Haven-based startup and current Y Combinator Summer 2013 participant Panorama Education is looking to address a major pain point for educators, students and parents around school with its polling app targeted at K-12 students. The technology is designed to replace cumbersome legacy players, and improve on less targeted, general-purpose tools like SurveyMonkey to really help survey provide meaningful insights for education.
Panorama came out of Yale alumni Aaron Feuer’s own personal frustrations with conducting surveys of classes. Feuer teamed up with fellow Yale students David Carel and Xan Tanner to create Panorama, drawing on their expertise with tracking and analyzing other types of data (sports) and their experience with the education system.
“We’re helping schools measure things, gather feedback and then use that data to improve,” Feuer said in an interview. “The big reason schools use us over SurveyMonkey is that we help them figure out what to ask, and we help them figure out what to do with the information. Tools like SurveyMonkey are great to just tell you the answers to whatever your surveying someone about, but if you want to understand what that actually means and how to interpret it, and you want to look at it in context with other data than you need something like Panorama.”
Though it’s new to YC, Panorama Education isn’t new entirely. The team started the company just before their senior year of college and have managed to sell their product into 3,000 schools in the U.S., and more than 500 abroad. Their annual recurring revenue run rate is currently at around $500,000, which is especially impressive as they only offer a paid product to the education market, which is traditionally reluctant about making budget bets on new products. During their time in YC, they’ve managed to increase their customer base by over 100 percent, and that’s a key goal they had coming into the program. But their ambition goes beyond that, Feuer says.
“So so far our main focus has been running surveys in schools, and we can launch a huge business just on that,” he said. “But what’s more exciting to us is coming back to the idea that schools don’t use data. If you’re in a business, the only way to improve is to look at customer retention, revenues, sales forecasts and all this data, but schools don’t do that. Our mission it to transform that, by going from doing surveys and looking at that data, to looking at all the data schools collect and helping them devise smart ways to use that data and their available tools.”
Harnessing big data for education is a hot and growing area, but one that’s still very much like the Wild West. Panorama, as its name implies, wants to become a high-level view that helps educators sort through that tangled mess and start driving more value for teachers, rather than making them pore through endless sheets of numbers. It’s a big idea, but when a company has paying clients on its platform already buying in, that’s a good sign.