Must Read Founder's Five March 17, 2023

Founder’s Five: Aaron Feuer, Panorama Education

Founder’s Five is a continuing series from Tyton Partners that invites education company founders to shed light on their own success and illuminate the landscape for other education entrepreneurs and investors by answering five basic questions.

Aaron Feuer founded Panorama Education in 2012 to tangibly improve student outcomes.

Aaron founded Panorama Education in 2012 while still an undergraduate at Yale University with two fellow classmates. After graduating in 2013, they developed the business in Y Combinator and raised their first $4 million round in October 2013.

More recently, Panorama closed a $60 million Series C round in 2021, led by General Atlantic. Panorama connects what students and parents want to see in the classroom with the school districts that make it happen.

Panorama provides a data platform for improving student success that combines multiple measures in one easy-to-read dashboard that allows administrators to identify student challenges and provide social-emotional learning and professional development solutions with the goal of tangibly improving student outcomes.

Today, Panorama supports over 15 million students in 2,000 districts across the United States.

What is your company’s origin story?

I grew up in Los Angeles and went to a large public high school where I was recruited as a student to work with my school and district to figure out better ways for students to provide feedback on school policies, programs, and how the school environment was supporting students. My high school experience was all about helping to bring more student, parent, and teacher voice into decision making in our district. I loved doing this work supporting students in Los Angeles, which continued through college. In our junior year, my co-founders and I began talking to other districts in California and Connecticut, offering to help them with student, parent, and teacher voice. We ended up working with 25 or so districts as college students and that became the beginning of Panorama.

How will the market be changed by your company’s success?

Over time, there are a few things I hope to see. The first is seeing students achieve greater success in the classroom while having better wellbeing, which can be supported by a school experience that feels more personalized for students. That means every student is an individual: they have a name, they have a story, they have strengths, they have needs, they have a life path, and they have dreams and aspirations. School is at its best when we’re able to personalize school for every student; when we can say, “this student is doing well in math, let’s create some opportunities for the student here.” Or “this student is not performing at grade level, so let’s offer some extra support.” Or “these students don’t feel safe at school, let’s help make the students feel safer.” I envision a version of school oriented around every student’s individual story.

The other thing that I want to see is school where, in addition to academic skills, we’re looking at the well-being of and life skills for the student. Are students feeling joy? Are they building a growth mindset? Are they building self-management skills? We know the things that adults need for the workforce and to be successful and schools can help to cultivate that.

We can personalize school. We can help support well-being and life skills, and ultimately, we can foster school as a place of community. We know that schools are best as a strong community where learning happens. That means students feel safe and that they belong at school. It means teachers like working there. It means parents have a voice and can influence and understand what’s happening in school. Panorama is helping to make this vision of school as a thriving community across the country.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you began?

I wish I had understood how recruiting was going to be everything and that recruiting is a skill you have to build. We built a really fantastic team; we’re now more than 400 folks across 45 states –every corner of the country. It’s one thing to be able to tell the company’s story, but it’s a different thing to have the skill to assess the special combination of skills and talents that you want to bring on your team. How do you find just the right people who bring that? I wish I could go back and know at the beginning that the core of how we build the company is our ability to bring together this really special group of folks across the country.

What non-intuitive insight have you gained through this work?

It’s important that we exist in support of each school’s goals and can customize the work that we do for the local school community. It’s tempting sometimes to say that we’re going to build this one-size-fits-all thing for the entire country. But that’s not how education works, not how kids work, and not how schools work.

It’s tempting sometimes to say that we’re going to build this one-size-fits-all thing for the entire country. But that’s not how education works, not how kids work, and not how schools work.

Aaron Feuer

We’ve seen the best work happen when we can say to Dallas, what are your priorities? What do you need to do in New York City? What are your priorities? What do you need? St. Louis, Missouri, what are your priorities? What do you need? And they’ll look different in every district. One of our core insights has been that if you can build a product and service that relies on research expertise, learnings across the country, but brings it all together in a way that is customized to match the needs of a district, then that’s where the real impact happens.

I think the other piece of that we’ve discovered has been the importance of implementation. A lot of folks think education is about ideas, and ideas are certainly important. But at the end of the day, it’s about how we implement and make this good work happen at a school and at a district level. It’s one thing to say school must be safe. It’s a different thing to figure out how we improve safety at a school. The greatest impact happens when we focus on implementation.And that’s where the change happens.

What other education company besides your own do you wish you had started?

I’m going to time travel. My two would be Oregon Trail and SimCity. They inspired me to learn so much. SimCity inspired me to learn how cities work and triggered, as a third grader, this immense sense of curiosity about the world. It taught me that I enjoy problem solving and taught me that I enjoy building things. With both I learned a ton, I built skills doing it, and it was so much fun. They taught me that learning is fun, and building is fun. They totally inspired me, and I would love to run those products.