How ed tech startup Junyo is using data to help publishers identify schools’ needs

Learning analytics startup Junyo is taking another crack at using data to improve education, but instead of targeting administrators and teachers, it’s now trying to reach publishers and other companies selling into school districts.

When it launched about two years ago, the company, which is led by Zynga (s ZYNG) co-founder Steve Schoettler, planned to bring software to teachers and schools that gave them a data-rich picture of student progress. But last fall, after losing a few founding members and encountering some unexpected obstacles, the company announced a change in strategy. On Monday, the startup rolled out its first product since its pivot: a service for helping publishers and ed tech companies better understand the education market.

“We changed the product strategy but the mission is the same,” said Schoettler. “For the first time, publishers can understand the schools they’re selling to.”

Called EdLights, the product is a departure from Junyo’s initial vision, which involved using analytics to help schools understand and adapt to how students learn. But it’s still a data play: it pulls together a wide range of datasets — including school performance data from each state, funding data and census data — to give publishers a way to understand the specific needs of the more than 103,000 schools in the country.

For example, a company with a literacy product specifically for English language learners could use EdLights to filter for schools and districts that not only have a high percentage of Spanish-speaking students, but that have also received relevant federal funding and have under-performing students.

The primary audience is publishers and ed tech companies – from giant players like Pearson to smaller startups that want a leg up in selling to schools. But, while it’s not actively selling to schools, the company said other educational organizations could also benefit from the data.  For example, it could help schools benchmark themselves against schools in other areas with similar demographic and performance profiles or enable state departments of education to do A/B testing to determine the effectiveness of various education products or resources, the company said.

In the past year or so, data has become a beloved buzzword in education as new startups — like Clever and Learnsprout — as well as big operations — like the Gates Foundation-backed InBloom initiative – have touted their plans for freeing up and sharing all kinds of student information. But Junyo’s approach differs from most other data-focused ed tech startups.

The company intends to offer various packages for customers including a $79-per-month subscription package and a $4,000-per-year enterprise product. And, potentially to reassure potential customers wary of a newly-pivoted company, Schoettler said he estimates that with its new model, the company will be profitable by next year.