AI-powered math tutoring app Photomath today announced that it raised $23 million in series B funding. The company says the proceeds will be used to grow headcount, invest in AI, and scale both product and marketing development.
An estimated 65% of households in the U.S. with children report using online learning during the pandemic, with 11% reporting having no live contact with a teacher in the past week (as of November 2020). Test results from the Portland-based nonprofit organization NWEA show the preliminary impact of the shift. The test scores of 4.4 million students in grades 3 through 8 suggest that students lost ground in math, underscoring the need for remote tutoring solutions.
Photomath, which reached 220 million downloads during the pandemic, was founded in 2014 by Damir Sabol, a father who was struggling to help his sons with math homework. Sabol, a Croatia national, previously founded two other companies, one of which was PhotoPay (now Microblink), a mobile payment app with text recognition. Damir with his cofounders leveraged the technology built into PhotoPay, integrated a math solving algorithm, and created a learning tool for his sons that grew into Photomath.
Using computer vision and a smartphone camera, Photomath reads and solves mathematical problems, providing animated calculation steps and instructions about how to approach them. Photomath’s core math solver leans on a human-designed rule system and a domain-specific language that’s used to program math-solving procedures.
Photomath supports addition as well as more complex calculus problems, and it ships with a “smart calculator” that lets users enter or edit scanned math problems with a keyboard. Graphs from the app help to visualize math problems, many of which are designed by Photomath’s in-house team of math teachers who research teaching methods and develop frameworks for solving math problems.
Photomath offers a $9.99 per month premium service, Photomath Plus, that includes a number of features unavailable in the free version of the app. In addition to teacher-approved problem explanations and math tips and definitions, Photomath Plus offers custom visual aids and word problem solutions.
Despite competition from AI-powered apps like Amy, Happy Numbers, and Pearson’s Aida, Sabol sees Photomath cornering a portion of a tutoring market that’s projected to grow to more than $132 billion by 2024. “Due to the pandemic’s push towards remote learning, more than ever before students are struggling with math homework and have limited access to learning support from teachers or tutors. Photomath is filling the gap for affordable learning support and as a mobile-first technology it is easily accessible from a smartphone,” Sabol told VentureBeat via email. “We will use the new investment money to increase headcount, invest further in AI and machine learning capabilities, and continue to scale the product to support all students worldwide.”
Menlo Ventures led 100-employee Photomath’s latest round of fundraising with participation from GSV Ventures, Learn Capital, Cherubic Ventures, and Goodwater Capital. It brings the Croatia- and San Mateo-based company’s total raised to date to over $29 million.
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