We are excited to partner with the very talented team at Photomath, as part of their Series A-1. Based in Zagreb, Croatia the company is at the forefront of an emerging new trend in K12 and College education that we call RoboED. The app lets users scan math problems and instantly displays solutions with step-by-step explanations and tutorials. The user experience is impressive, even awe-inspiring when using for the first time.
The GSV Ventures ethos is that entrepreneurial talent is everywhere, and Silicon Valley is no longer just a geography but a mentality that has gone viral, and gone global — the Global Silicon Valley. Finding a Star of Tomorrow in Zagreb is further evidence of our core concept. After visiting the team a few months ago, we were highly impressed by the quality of the company — a motivated team of talented, young data engineers, led by an experienced CEO with the right vision, discipline, and focus.
The story started in 2015 when serial entrepreneur Damir Sabol was helping his son solve math homework problems, and had an idea to combine visual recognition software with a math solving algorithm. His company at that time was PhotoPay (now Microblink), a mobile banking app with integrated text recognition software. He took that technology, integrated a math solving algorithm, and created a powerful learning tool for his son. Recognizing the potential, he quickly took the idea and transformed it into a business. Fast forward to today, and the app is used by over 150 million users who currently solve over 1.2 billion problems per month.
The user base is global and diverse, with a smaller fraction based in the U.S. The app is used by over 1 million teachers as a tool in the classroom, which supports our thesis that AI in education is not about replacing the teacher but about enhancing the experience. Not surprisingly, Photomath has been the top-ranked education app in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store in recent years.
Scan. Solve. Learn.
The freemium model displays solutions with basic solving steps for free. For a $10 per month subscription, an in-depth explanation with math concept tutorials becomes available. Given the effectiveness and value-add of the tutorials, a growing number of users are choosing the premium, and we expect a larger portion of users to convert to subscribers over time.
One of the biggest pain-points for students doing homework is to remember the math concepts they learned in class. When students do homework, they are often tired and get lost. This is where “RoboED tutors” like Photomath become so powerful — they help students understand the concepts and provide step-by-step explanations, and adapt to the student’s own pace.
At GSV Ventures, a core thesis about the future of Education is that traditional tutoring is evolving towards on-demand, personalized, AI-powered tutoring. Photomath fits right in the middle of that thesis and is creating a positive and powerful impact on students. With over 40% of the world’s population having access to a smartphone, its mobile-first solution is well positioned to penetrate a massive audience while capitalizing on this behavioral shift, in our opinion.
While there are many reasons why we are excited about this investment, the main ones include:
An impressive team led by co-founder and CEO Damir Sabol. Damir is a computer science engineer with strong entrepreneurial background — he previously founded two tech companies that grew and became successful businesses.
Photomath is an emerging leader in a disruptive new trend we call RoboED, with massive potential ahead; there are 1 billion students studying math, and an estimated 75% of high-school students are not prepared for college-level math.
A best-in-class user experience. We researched and compared a series of math solving apps including Mathway, Symbolab, Chegg Math Solver, Pearson Aida, Kunduz, Google’s Socratic, and are convinced that Photomath is significantly better positioned than its competitors. Aside from a strong technical advantage, Photomath wins on the user experience, in our opinion.
Strong engagement as measured by Weekly to Monthly Active Users (WAU/MAU), daily usage frequency and time spent per user per day. In addition, we are content about the early monetization trends.
We love businesses with network effects. A high-quality user experience results in strong engagement, which drives viral adoption, which increases network effects. It is a common factor that we’ve seen in the early days of other successful teenager-heavy apps such as Spotify, Snap, or TikTok (previously Musical.ly).
Strategic partnership with Snap. In 2019, Snap integrated Photomath as a lens inside its own app, allowing users to solve math equations while on Snapchat. The partnership validates our view about Photomath’s position as a leader, on a technical and user experience basis.
Aligned vision — we share the same vision with the Photomath team, and are excited to partner and support them on their mission ahead!