This week on the #YOURPRO series, we speak to Alex Hatvany, co-founder of Atom Learning, an innovative educational platform that is revolutionising the way of teaching using Artificial Intelligence algorithm.
Location: Soho, London
Current job: Co-founder Atom Learning
Your role model: Charlie Munger
My biggest fear: Churn
My favourite movie: The Social Network
I met my co-founder, Jake O’Keeffe at university, where we lived together. Jake went into finance and I went to law school. I privately tutored throughout law school and when I started my Training Contract at a US law firm, I suggested to Jake that we begin a tutoring company. Every weekend, we put flyers through letterboxes in affluent parts of London to get the business going, offering our unemployed friends from Oxford as tutors. Jake worked on the business early in the morning and I helped at night after work and we’d both work on it over the weekend. As soon as I qualified as a solicitor, I quit my job – Jake had quit slightly earlier. the tutoring business allowed us to quit our jobs but we both knew we wanted to use the money we made from tuition to bootstrap a technology company.
I’ve been interested in education since realising what a profound impact great teachers have had in my life. From the inspiring English teacher to the teacher who gave me the confidence to apply to Oxford, it all compounds into something very significant over time. The idea for Atom Learning came through operating a private tuition company. We determined Key Stage 2 (ages 8 – 11) is this incredibly important time in a child’s education in terms of laying the right foundations for future success. This area was almost entirely overlooked by ‘edtech’ that had traditionally focussed on older students. By combining the highest-quality teacher-made content with the technology that adapts to the individual child’s level, it is possible to automate the role of a private tutor, at least from an academic perspective. This is also far more scalable and has the potential for a genuinely positive impact on a massive scale.
Put simply, it’s impossible for a human to determine the optimal learning path for an individual pupil and even more challenging in a class of many students. On Atom platform, our questions are initially graded on a difficulty scale by a professional teacher but questions are then re-graded by the hundreds of thousands of users to determine the questions actual difficulty level. This way you get a much more accurate understanding of a question’s difficulty level.
Atom will quickly understand the optimal probability a student should have of answering the next question correctly or incorrectly. We want students to be pushed but not to the point where it’s demotivating.
The results of adaptive learning are profound and not really discussed enough in my opinion. I believe even now, children are at a significant disadvantage from an attainment perspective if they’re not engaging with an adaptive learning platform and this will play a major role in the future of education. Below are some CAT4 data comparing Y5 and Y6 performance pre and post Atom at a leading prep school. I have permission to share this data but not the name of the school:
Atom Prime is our school platform and this allows teachers to create lessons, homework, run mock tests and get performance insight. It is entirely free to use in school.
For parents who want to do additional work, they can use Atom Nucleus, our home platform, as a viable, school-supported and much more cost-effective alternative to a private tutor.
Where a platform is already used and endorsed by a school, this provides parents with the confidence to trial Atom Nucleus.
With that said, parent word-of-mouth travels even faster than teacher word-of-mouth. Many of our parents sign up directly to Atom Nucleus and are not part of the Prime community.
Atom has grown to around 100 employees and is still bootstrapped – we haven’t needed to raise any external investment yet and we’d like to keep it that way for as long as possible.
We believe we can 5x the number of incredible people we work with right now in the next 2 years so that we can continue building great features, enter new markets and pull away as one of the UK’s leading startups.
I personally still like good old-fashioned pen and paper and I’m sure, I’m not alone in that but when I was at primary school, Snake on a Nokia 3310 was the latest in mobile gaming tech so I suspect the children using Atom today will be quite different.
After a year of COVID, I’m very aware in-person is often nicer than remote. With that said, remote really does allow for much greater efficiency. A balance is the answer.
On Atom, if you’re ever missing a human connection, our incredible teachers James and Jono, are always available through our evening and holiday clubs. Many of their lessons are completely free to attend and we can have thousands in a single class. They’re incredibly good fun!
I haven’t got this right yet and COVID isn’t good for any workaholic! I think ultimately balance might be the wrong word. I’d like to achieve a work-life integration or harmony (like Jeff Bezos talks about) where one energises the other. The most important thing is that you love what you do and it’s giving you the energy to be a better person outside of work too.
Absolutely, sign up for one of Jame and Jono’s free lessons – they’ll love it, I promise! https://app.atomlearning.co.uk/atom-clubs
You can follow Atom Learning on Instagram