On Monday, Cambridge-based startup Panorama Education announced it received the first public investment by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The $4 million seed investment was led by Mark Zuckerberg through his $100 million Startup:Education fund, which he launched in September, 2010. Other investors in the round include SoftTech VC, Google Ventures, Ashton Kutcher and Yale University. Panorama’s three co-founders, Aaron Feuer, Xan Tanner and David Carel started Panorama as juniors at Yale and received initial funding from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute.
“It just felt fantastic,” says Tanner, when he learned that the company had secured Zuckerberg’s investment.“It’s really exciting to see that some of the top investors in Silicon Valley care as much about education as we do, and that we have the support to help schools and help teachers.”
Panorama offers feedback programs to school districts, the company facilitates surveys and analyzes data to produce actionable reports. By the end of the co-founders’ senior year, the company was doing roughly $500,000 in revenue annually and serving 1,000 schools. Today, Panorama has more than 4,000 clients in 26 states.
Tanner says Panorama sprung from Feuer’s personal experience as the president of the California Association for Student Councils in High School.
“One of the issues was including more student surveys to provide feedback for teachers,” says Tanner.
“The problem was there was no affordable effective solution for these districts, and so Aaron kind of started coding a solution for himself. Gradually this became a nationwide effort to give more feedback to teachers from students,” says Tanner, at which point he and Carel were recruited by Feuer.
After graduating, the company participated in Y Combinator; the co-founders were introduced to Zuckerberg at a dinner hosted by the startup accelerator.
With the $4 million investment, Tanner says the co-founders will continue to grow the seven-person team as well as continue work on new product offerings, including a free teacher-survey tool.
And while Tanner admits that he and his co-founders’ youth initially caused internal concern, it hasn’t been much of a problem.
“We’ve worked really hard on this. There’s a lot to learn and work to be done, but at the same time, we’ve built a product right from Aaron’s experience,” says Tanner.
“That kind of earnestness and enthusiasm for creating a great product has managed to assuage any doubts about our age,” he says.
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