Imagine if every K-12 student could have a personal teacher helping them with their specific needs.
Amit Jain is working toward that future with MentoMind, his venture-backed startup building an artificial intelligence-based learning platform that assists students with SAT prep. Think of it as a personal, virtual tutor.
Bucks County-based Jain, the company’s CEO, started his career as a computer science teacher. He moved on to corporate software engineering roles, but knew he wanted to eventually get back into education. The pandemic was the push he needed to get back in the education space and work on something impactful, he said.
In 2020, Jain started talking to educators, parents and students to better understand the challenges in education. The switch to remote schooling showcased an opportunity to focus on personalizing education.
“I wanted to focus on education to improve, to personalize education, and somehow be able to give that one-to-one attention to a student, right?” Jain told Technical.ly, “which is kind of difficult when you have a large classroom size.”
Jain has 20 years of experience working with AI — his LinkedIn boasts engineering roles at the likes of International SOS, Lutron Electronics and LifeScan in the Philly area — and said he came up with the idea to develop an AI personalized learning companion that can help students prioritize what content to focus on, remind them of assignments and answer questions.
In 2021, the company tested an early version of its product at a prep school in India to collect feedback from students and teachers. After that experience, Jain said they adjusted the platform to focus on standardized test prep. The company released a beta version this summer, and this week the company launched its full product.
“We really went narrow, very specific use case, so that we can really mature this technology first in those narrow cases, and then eventually evolve it to the other cases around the overall K-12 [experience] and even higher education later,” Jain said.
This version of the platform assists students with SAT practice questions and provides full practice tests. Starting in the spring, the SAT is going to be offered entirely in a digital format. Jain said MentoMind’s platform will prepare students for that experience.
All of students’ interactions with the platform are visible to educators and parents. But Jain emphasized that MentoMind is not trying to replace teachers — it is supposed to help teachers maximize their time and offer personalized attention to students, even if the teacher can’t get to them right away.
“SATs are [the] first step, but we are taking this technology eventually into schools, K-12 schools, helping students, bridging those gaps,” the founder said. “The students can still get personal attention from not a human teacher, but maybe an AI companion.”
In May, MentoMind got a local vote of confidence by winning a small Bucks Built Fund grant from Startup Bucks and Penn Community Bank, and in September, the 11-person remote company closed a seed funding round after raising $1.5 million led by local angel investor Kirtan Patel. Jain said the money will be used to hire teachers who can help create the educational content for the platform, sales people who understand the education industry, and a marketing team. The company also plans to use the funding to continue building out MentoMind’s platform.
“AI is so new, and we keep talking about personalized education and how we personalize it for students, but we still have a long way to go,” he said. “We are able to solve certain cases, which is still helpful for students, but we know that we have to continue doing a lot of R&D into this.”Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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