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[Korean Startup Interview] POSTMATH: Revolutionizing Math Education Globally with Innovative Solutions ‘Math Assistant’

2024-04-03 10 min read


[Korean Startup Interview] POSTMATH: Revolutionizing Math Education Globally with Innovative Solutions ‘Math Assistant’

Reading Time: 10 minutes
  • funding Stage : Series A 
  • Raising Amount : KRW 3B
  • Desired Fundraising Timeframe : 2Q 2024

The South Korean edu-tech startup POSTMATH, as implied by its name, was initially founded as a company specializing in mathematics education. It introduced a service named “Math Assistant,” underscoring its mission to alleviate the inefficient workload of mathematics teachers, who are pivotal to the field of math education. POSTMATH’s “Math Assistant” aims to lessen the burden on teachers while simultaneously offering comprehensive solutions to the challenges faced by students and parents. CEO Choi Jun-ho, leveraging his extensive experience as a math tutor, developed a variety of features to address the myriad difficulties confronting math teachers. For instance, to overcome the challenge of searching for math problems, he enhanced the problem classification system to simplify searches. Uniquely, this platform enables teachers to search not only standard queries but also their own creative ideas.

Diverging from the majority of question bank providers that distribute problems in PDF format, Math Assistant offers them in HWP (Hangul Word Processor) format, granting teachers the flexibility to edit as needed. It also promotes an exclusive DB service, allowing content providers to generate income. By uploading school exam papers, answer keys, and explanatory materials to Math Assistant, contributors earn 10% of the sales revenue each time their database is sold, thus encouraging the accumulation of a robust database.

Leveraging AI, POSTMATH’s solution empowers users to establish their personalized math databases, enabling the customization of a comprehensive math problem collection. The company developed the PostGeo program, a proprietary technology that synthesizes the best features of global products like Adobe for graph creation, slashing the time required for graph-related tasks by 90%.

Targeting the global market, POSTMATH has set its sights on addressing unsolved issues in math edutech—a goal that has eluded many leading firms worldwide. It plans to deploy an “Adaptive Tag” algorithm designed to navigate the varying curricula, evaluation methods, and problem styles unique to each country, breaking down mathematical concepts to their most fundamental elements—a project six years in the making.

With a team of approximately 70 members, POSTMATH is gearing up for a Series A funding round to support development costs and personnel recruitment. Having already secured a total investment of KRW 2.2 billion, the company is eyeing an ambitious fundraising target of KRW 3 to 4 billion in its upcoming investment round.

CEO Choi Jun-ho articulated, “Our vision is to forge a SaaS platform that becomes as indispensable and universally utilized as Google, transcending local borders to achieve global reach. Despite the unresolved challenges that have stymied many, there is currently no global SaaS solution tailored to math within the edutech sector. We are confident in our capacity to pioneer this space and exert a significant impact on the global stage. With the company already surpassing its break-even point in the last quarter of the previous year, we are poised to leverage upcoming investments as a catalyst for further growth.”

What issue is POSTMATH aiming to address?

During my 15 years as a top-tier math tutor, I spent a lot of time pondering what makes a great educator. Although there are many factors that contribute to high-quality education, in math, particularly, preparing effective resources demands an excessive amount of time and effort. This has led to a detrimental cycle: educators either hastily prepare materials or, in their attempt to develop thorough resources, neglect other important aspects.

To break this cycle, I realized that an innovation was necessary—one that would reduce the amount of time teachers spend on class preparation while elevating the quality of the materials produced. The ideas that I meticulously recorded in a notebook, which eventually spanned thousands of pages, laid the groundwork for our company.

How does POSTMATH address this issue?

The solution to this problem is twofold.

Firstly, we aimed to create a detailed, hierarchical tree structure that systematically categorizes each math problem based on various criteria that were initially only in conceptual form. Secondly, we developed a database for math problems, embedding dozens of attributes, including meta information. This allows for the efficient allocation of each problem within the tree structure.

These two approaches make it possible to materialize nearly everything previously imagined in the realm of mathematics. They facilitate searches based on non-textual information such as mathematical concepts, origins, years, and difficulty levels. Additionally, this enables the customization of problems through editing or replacement, allowing teachers to rapidly create math content tailored to specific themes within minutes. It also allows for the statistical analysis of students’ weaknesses in mathematical concepts, leading to the generation of personalized practice problems.

So far, we have digitized over 650,000 math problems from paper and PDF sources into our database. We’ve achieved this by developing all the necessary technologies in-house, including domain and character recognition, graphic creation tools, and an attribute input system.

Looking ahead, within the next two years, we plan to develop an all-encompassing editor for math content creation that will replace existing tools such as Hangul Word Processor (HWP), illustration tools like Illustrator, and mathematical computing tools like Wolfram Alpha. We are relentlessly pursuing innovation in uncharted territories, continuing to challenge ourselves in areas previously unexplored.

What sets POSTMATH apart from its competitors?

First and foremost, our database technology is unparalleled. POSTMATH was designed from the outset with a global market in mind, recognizing mathematics as a universal language. However, the challenge arose from the varying curriculums, evaluation methods, and problem styles across different countries. To tackle this, we have dedicated six years to dissecting mathematical concepts into their atomic units. Through our ‘Adaptive Tag’ algorithm, we’ve developed a flexible database system capable of adapting to the diverse educational frameworks of different countries.

Consider the concept of ‘the continuity of a function’. While our competitors might categorize this into 1 or at most 20 categories, POSTMATH delves deeper, offering 163 categories. This granularity, with over 30,000 atomic concepts, allows problems to be easily realigned to fit the curriculum of any country. Problems that are not suitable for a specific educational system can be easily filtered out. Moreover, this detailed approach enables precise identification of the specific sub-concepts students struggle with, allowing for targeted recommendations of problems and concepts.

Our second major strength is the PostGeo graph creation tool. The key in graphic programs is minimizing latency so that interactions like clicks and drag-and-drop actions have instantaneous responses. To achieve this, we developed a graph/shape editing tool using assembly coding—a high-level coding approach that ensures ‘concurrency’. This tool makes drawing mathematical diagrams or graphs over ten times more efficient than using Adobe Illustrator or GeoGebra. Furthermore, the output is vector data, which means drawings can be easily searched, modified, and, despite being less than 1k in size, can be used reliably even in areas with unstable internet connections.

Significantly, since POSTMATH developed this tool in-house, it seamlessly integrates with our web editor and the automatic explanation module we are currently developing. This integration means that teachers no longer need to juggle multiple programs to create math content. Everything from calculation, graph creation, to explanation generation is automated and interconnected.

Lastly, our math problem search functionality stands unmatched. While general information searches rely on text-based queries through platforms like Google or Naver, the approach to finding math problems requires a different methodology. Math problems, though superficially similar, can differ greatly in logic. Teachers often look for problems based on ‘source information’, such as the year it was published or by which institution. They may also search for problems by the idea behind solving them, elements of equations or shapes included, or even by ‘similarity’—looking for problems with similar solutions or diagrams. As of now, POSTMATH is the only solution capable of accommodating all these diverse search requirements.

What services does POSTMATH offer?

POSTMATH currently provides a web-based service called “Math Assistant,” which boasts the following strengths:

Firstly, it offers a search functionality that meets a variety of conditions. Math Assistant enables users to search for problems by mixing conditions such as source, detailed type, difficulty, and type of solution. The general public might not fully appreciate the significance of being able to mix searches with the ‘source’, a feature that is unique to our service. We also offer unique search capabilities such as handwriting search, formula search, and idea search, all of which are not available from other providers and are provided for free.

Secondly, we provide a free problem bank in HWP (Hangul Word Processor) format. POSTMATH is the only company that can control the “Hangul and Computer” program on the web. Currently, over 99% of Korean math teachers use this program. Not only do we offer exam papers in HWP format, but we also provide a free database of 180,000 items.

Thirdly, we offer a solution that allows for the creation of personalized problem banks. By uploading PDF materials and paying a fee, every problem in the PDF undergoes a “digital transformation.” The digitally transformed problems bring unparalleled productivity, allowing for searches using all the methods mentioned earlier, finding similar problems with a single click, enabling editing, and allowing for data visualization through the problem’s source information. Data visualization is scheduled to be launched within April.

To give a brief overview in numbers, it’s important to note that since April 2023, our advertising expenditure has been zero.

What market size is POSTMATH targeting, and who are its key target customers?

Our current service focuses on the 330,000 teachers in public and private education in Korea, representing a market of about KRW 200 billion. However, by providing services based on our powerful database that have not existed before, we not only plan to penetrate the existing market but also to expand our target audience to include students and parents, thus increasing the overall market size.

Additionally, POSTMATH has been building its system with international expansion in mind from the early stages of its startup and aims to launch its global service by 2024. Based on our own research, we are considering the UK, India, the USA, Japan, and Vietnam as our priority target countries. Despite the inferior systems in these countries, many users are generating significant traffic. We believe that with our significantly advanced technology, we can easily dominate these local markets.

Moreover, the ‘Math Creation Editor,’ which integrates formulas, diagrams, and explanations and is set to debut in 2025, represents a new concept in solutions. This solution will be an innovative tool indispensable for anyone involved in math education, aimed at improving work efficiency, and we plan to offer it in a SaaS format.

We are also considering expanding our business from mathematics to all subjects, potentially tripling the market size. Our database has the structure to expand to all subjects, and we have briefly offered services for science and social studies subjects. We believe that a platform on top of a platform is feasible.

Considering the expansion into new markets along with the global market, we estimate a market potential of at least KRW 10 trillion. We are confident in our technology and experience to become the dominant player in this market.

What is POSTMATH’s business model?

POSTMATH’s paid service, “Math Assistant,” currently offers digital conversion of problems from uploaded PDF materials. This premium service was strategically developed to build a global database of math problems.

This year, we are introducing several subscription-based services:

First, a feature subscription. At present, the variety of features provided depends on a one-time payment. However, with a monthly subscription, users will gain access to enhanced functionalities.

Second, a premium database subscription. In addition to the 180,000 problems offered for free, this model will provide access to a premium database for a monthly fee.

Third, a student management app. Basic student management features will be free, but adding additional students will incur a monthly subscription fee.

Fourth, a POSTGEO subscription. POSTGEO, which converts hand-drawn images into vector graphics and facilitates easy modification, will be launched as a web service and eventually integrated with our Web Editor.

Moreover, we plan to launch a “Math Bookstore” that will work in tandem with our Math Assistant SaaS, offering an innovative solution in the KRW 400 billion annual math book market. We anticipate a strong consumer response to our differentiated offering.

What achievements has POSTMATH made so far?

Since our inception in 2021, we’ve raised approximately KRW 2.2 billion in investments, with notable contributions from the various investors including  The Invention Lab and our dedicated employees who believe in the company’s potential. Last year, we were selected for the Korea Institute of Startup & Entrepreneurship Development‘s startup package and the TIPS program. Our revenue reached KRW 857 million in 2023, and this year, we’ve already surpassed the revenue of last year’s first half in just January and February. We expect this growth trajectory to continue.

What is the competitive edge of the POSTMATH team?

Our team is comprised of 16 planning/development and 31 math content members, all planning/development team members are also shareholders who have invested in our company.

We boast a team of highly talented individuals from prestigious institutions such as Pohang University of Science and Technology, Seoul National University, and Yonsei University. United in their mission, our team is dedicated to developing unprecedented services for the educational sector.

Three reasons why we should receive investment:

First, we embody the startup spirit, addressing unresolved issues with innovative solutions. We are poised for a ‘J-curve’ growth as we tackle global challenges and refine our service offerings.

Second, POSTMATH possesses a significant competitive moat. Despite having more resources, Prediction, a subsidiary of MegaStudy, failed to match the quality of our services. Our platform is set to make a substantial impact on the educational market, as it’s too complex for competitors to replicate, even for giants like Google.

Third, our team’s passion for technology sets us apart. The dedication of our employees, who chose to invest in the company during tough times and worked tirelessly without bonuses, underscores our commitment. Our success is affirmed by our sales, user feedback, and technological advantages. Our team firmly believes in our potential to become a leading force in the educational sector.

Lastly, to our readers:

Imagine a service that becomes a daily necessity for teachers, students, and parents alike.

Teachers can easily search for and create math content, sharing it with their students. Students engage with the content, leaving behind valuable data through various interactive features. Teachers and parents access this data for insights, communicating and sharing content within our ecosystem. This super learning platform, free from distractions, will be welcomed by parents and educators alike.

Ultimately, we are confident that all math education will thrive within the ecosystem created by POSTMATH. We remain committed to quietly building a significant ecosystem that will revolutionize the educational landscape.

[Korean Startup Interview]

스타트업 투자의 숨은 말 '다코스'
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