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Published 09 May 2013 11:38, Updated 10 May 2013 07:21
Jebara claims that by collecting step-by-step data on students’ answers to maths problems it can help them find out where they are going wrong. Photo: Colleen Petch
Australian tech start-up Mathspace has earned the chance to pitch to investors at Asia’s largest tech conference, only weeks after winning a capital investment in Silicon Valley.
Judges at the Echelon Ignite Australia 2013 forum – an event aimed at hooking up Australian start-ups with contacts and investors in south-east Asia – pronounced Mathspace the winner out of 11 pitching start-ups. This gives Mathspace an automatic entry to pitch at the coveted Echelon 2013 conference in Singapore next month.
Co-founded by former derivatives trader Mohamad Jebara and tutor Chris Velis, the cloud-based maths learning software is being trialled in 15 schools in NSW and Victoria, and Jebara says he has a very high conversion rate among those he has approached. Four out of five iPad schools who have trialled his product have gone on to purchase subscriptions, he says.
The business has global appeal, he says, because mathematics is a universal language and there is a relatively small variance in the maths curriculums of different countries. He spent three years developing the software, which allows an adaptive, personalised learning approach that pinpoints specific problem areas.
“People are starting to understand the power of data,” Jebara says. “With our sophisticated approach to doing the maths step by step, the implications in terms of what we can do with that data are limitless.
“By collecting data from each individual of every step of every question, we have this opportunity now to go and use that data to say the reason you don’t understand the equations you should be doing in year eight is because you haven’t learnt the basic fractions you should have been doing in year six. And we will be able to address that straight away.”
Competitors only do this using multiple choice questions, he says, and three major competitors had already approached him hoping to work together, providing a potential exit opportunity down the track.
Last month Mathspace prevailed over nine other start-ups at the second annual Advance Innovation Summit in Santa Clara, winning a $20,000 capital investment from newly founded venture capital firm Blackbird Ventures.
Jebara hasn’t patented the software, after being advised that it wasn’t worth the effort.
“The advice that we got is you’re better off spending your money building product because it’s a difficult thing to replicate anyway.”
Jebara plans to add more features, including video content, and launch into other markets, particularly in Asia.
“In Thailand they have a one tablet per child program,” Jebara says. “They spend big on tuition. It’s an interesting market for us, probably more interesting than the US.”