Our investment in Photomath: changing the future of math tutoring

JP Sanday, Partner at Menlo Ventures @jpsanday

Feyza Haskaraman, Investor at Menlo Ventures @FHaskaraman

A very real concern emerging from the pandemic is the impact of remote learning on students who require more hands-on, personalized instruction. This is also a pain point for parents trying to support their children’s virtual education while working from home. Even before the pandemic, traditional in-person tutoring was a multi-billion dollar market for parents seeking to supplement instruction for their children beyond the classroom. However, special instruction wasn’t accessible to most people due to the high financial costs and the friction involved with finding good tutors. The growing proliferation of technology in education is now starting to ease some of that friction and bring down costs. In addition, one of the most pervasive trends in education has been the evolution towards more personalized, intuitive learning, especially with smartphones becoming ubiquitous.

When students struggle with a school assignment, they often turn to their parents or even the Internet for answers. There’s a high demand for a technology solution that can walk a student through their homework step-by-step. JP, as a father of two children who will soon be in elementary school, has a personal stake in the progression of such tools.

Today, we announce our investment in Photomath, an app that provides a clean and easy way to not just solve math problems, but more importantly, explains the methodology and approach so that students can understand concepts.

Co-founder and CEO Damir Sabol is a serial entrepreneur. He was busy growing his second startup when he started Photomath in 2014. He became increasingly frustrated when helping his own kids with their math homework, and adapted the visual recognition technology he had created to develop a math-solving algorithm. What he ended up creating was essentially a digital tutor, getting students “unstuck” from tough math problems. A user takes a snapshot of an equation using the camera on their smartphone, and Photomath’s proprietary AI model will solve it step-by-step.

We’ve seen firsthand how people around with school-aged kids are dealing with their new “job” as part-time math tutors — we never get tired of recommending Photomath to them and seeing their reaction. And JP’s daughters will definitely be using it soon!

The Photomath app covers a wide range of levels, from elementary school all the way up to college-level. The user base has a diverse age distribution — it’s serving a widespread need, and we believe the company is on a path to scale even further.

This wasn’t an overnight success — it took a number of years of dedication and relentless product vision and execution to get to this point. Photomath solves 2.2 billion problems per month now, orders of magnitude more than other apps in the market. With the vast amount of data generated by its users and a significant investment in machine learning, Photomath is in pole position to personalize its instructional content and introduce more amazing features like animated tutorials.

We’re thrilled to be partnering with Damir and his team and welcome Photomath to the Menlo family. We’ve always been bullish on consumer technologies that meet basic, utilitarian needs, or “jobs to be done” and Photomath’s easy, accessible way of getting students through their math educational journey does just that. Perhaps what is most important is how Photomath is reinventing tutoring and giving everyone access to math educational support.

If you’re building a product or company that seeks to solve everyday problems, we would love to hear from you.

A venture capital firm that strives to have a positive impact on everything we do. When we’re in, we’re all in. www.menlovc.com