Estonian teen raises half a million dollars for an edtech start-up

A teenager-founded Estonian game platform to motivate students to learn math, 99math, has raised USD500,000 to help accelerate its growth.

The platform was co-founded by a 19-year-old Estonian, Timo Timmi, a recent high school graduate and gaming lover. The company announced in a statement that it had already had 30,000 elementary students from around the world participate in its eSports style math league. 

Change Ventures (Estonia) led the funding round, joined by the Good Deed Education Fund (Estonia) and Martin Villig, a co-founder of the Estonian unicorn startup, Bolt. The learning platform is free to use for both kids and teachers – the idea is to engage first-to-sixth grade students in the subject of math more effectively. The startup is aiming to make money in the future by charging parents for the development of their children.

Online math competition

The new platform first stood out in Estonia in late January 2019, when it engaged simultaneously thousands of students in an online math competition. The game day, that took place on 30 January 2019, involved more than 9,000 students from 200 schools in Estonia – they competed in addition, subtraction and multiplication. Players from first to 12th grade were competing online, in real time.

Timmi created the platform with an aim to help teachers make their lessons more fun and motivate students. The game lets the participant choose between different mathematical equations and compete with the whole class to see who’s the best.

“I am helping solve a problem that both teachers and students have complained about. In a world full of information, math has become less important and this type of competitive game sparks conversation about mathematical knowledge,” Timmi told Estonian World.

“Nowadays, mathematical skills are really important and studying has to begin early. However, if students are not motivated, then they will miss fundamental knowledge and their development will be affected.”

“If math were as engaging as gaming, the next generation would far exceed the previous with powerful problem-solving skills. In turn, we would hopefully have more engineers, scientists and astronauts,” Timmi said in a statement announcing the funding news.

Cover: 99math’s cofounders Tõnis Kusmin and Timo Timmi, marketer Anastasiia Kuchynska and cofounder Ain Arend.

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