Croatian PhotoMath is Officially a Part of Google

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in Startup Stories, WWW

The European Commission has assessed that the acquisition of PhotoMath will not distort competition in online tools and educational applications that help solve math problems. With this decision, Google can officially complete the purchase of the Croatian startup.

“The two companies together will be part of the market, in which there are many alternatives.”

Google has announced the acquisition of Croatian startup PhotoMath, an educational app with over 300 million downloads. News of the purchase comes from the European Commission, and soon the deal will be finalized. The European Commission has set a deadline up until March 28, by which time the final decision should be made. This deal is the biggest purchase of a company in Croatia. The total amount could exceed over 130 million euros, writes Jutarnji List.

Google’s interest was also confirmed by the founder of PhotoMath, Damir Sabol.

“PhotoMath’s technology will help Google improve its ability to provide better experiences for students that want to learn math, by helping to build Google’s homework help products,” said a Google spokesperson.

PhotoMath's team.

What is PhotoMath?

PhotoMath is a math education app. The user only needs to take a picture of the math problem, and they will get a solution. The app uses a smartphone camera to identify the math problem. Initially, it only recognized printed problems, but now it can also recognize handwritten formulas.

In addition to providing troubleshooting, it also offers step-by-step troubleshooting assistance. The application can be used to solve a bunch of mathematical operations. It started with arithmetic operations, fractions, decimal numbers, linear equations, but since then a bunch of upgrades and new functionalities have been added.

What makes the app popular is its ease of use. PhotoMath can recognize formulas and math problems by simply pointing the phone’s camera. It also comes with a red on-screen marker that shows where the formula should be centered.

After the scan, the user is greeted with the explanation of the steps for the solution. The app also has a premium “PhotoMath Plus” subscription that gives you more benefits, one of which is a visual explanation of the steps.

A brief history of PhotoMath

PhotoMath started in 2014 as a product of Croatian startup MicroBlink. The founder of the company is Damir Sabol, one of the first Croatian startup entrepreneurs.

MicroBlink was a spinoff company from Rač During this period, smartphones were a new thing, and the company was already focused on cameras and processing text that was photographed. MicroBlink’s first product – PhotoPay allowed users to pay a bill by photographing it with a smartphone. 

PhotoMath's method.

Character recognition with the phone was what inspired Damir Sabol with the idea of PhotoMath. The beginnings of the application, as he himself says in the Netokracija podcast, were not to make an education application. I had my own selfish reasons, I wanted an app that would help me better teach my children math, says Sabol.

We created PhotoMath as an experiment. I was at home helping my son with his homework. As I was checking the homework, I thought, we can really use our technology to read the assignments and check if they’re correct. It was a selfish thing to do. Ok, everyone needs something like this…

We did (PhotoMath) as a validation of the MicroBlink technology.

The company didn’t have a big marketing budget, but they believed in the technology. The idea was to create an application that would solve a widespread problem and that would present the possibilities of technology.

PhotoMath had its first public presentation at TechCrunch Disrupt. The application did not impress the jury of the competition, but the application became interesting for the media and the users of the event. Soon the application passed Facebook Messenger and climbed to the first place on the US AppStore.

It soon became clear to them that they had two successful products that were still different businesses. MicroBlink was intended for business users and PhotoMath for end users, an educational tool. When it came to finding investors, the merger of the two products made no sense, and because of this they split the two companies.

Во првиот месец по претставувањето на TechCrunch Disrupt, апликацијата имаше над 8,5 милиони корисници.

In the first month after its launch at TechCrunch Disrupt, the app had over 8.5 million users.

Founders of PhotoMath are Damir Sabol, Marko Mihovilić, Matija Korpar and Sasha Skevin. Although the company was founded in Croatia, its headquarters is in San Mateo, California.

Prior to the acquisition by Google, Photomath had an investment of $29 million. Investors include Menlo Ventures, LearnCapital, Goodwater Capital, GSV Ventures and Cherubic. The largest investments came in two waves. In November 2018, the startup managed to collect 6 million dollars, with the leading investor being Goodwater Capital. In February 2021, PhotoMath managed to raise $23 million, the largest investor being Menlo Ventures.

Who is Damir Sabol?

Damir Sambol is a serial startup founder. He is one of the first entrepreneurs in Croatia and one of the first startup founders in Croatia. In 2006, he sold his first startup Iskon to Croatian Telecom for HRK 100 million.

He is the founder of several companies, probably having the most success with MicroBlink and PhotoMath. With MicroBlink, he developed technology that can process a photo and create data that is understandable to a computer. A day after his presentation at TechCrunch Disrupt, over 100,000 users had downloaded the app.

Fun Facts

  • Company founder Damir Sabol got the idea for PhotoMath while explaining math to his children.
  • Damir Sabol is the founder of Iskon, the first independent Internet provider in Croatia
  • PhotoMath premiered in 2014 at TechCrunch Disrupt
  • Since 2016, the application also recognizes handwritten text.
  • In 2017 PhotoMath was selected in the top 20 tools for teaching and learning
  • As of 2021 the app has over 250 million downloads globally, today PhotoMath has over 300 million users.
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