Purchase of AI startup Photomath by Google marks a new day for Croatia’s tech ecosystem

(Editor’s note: This post on Photomath is part of our Tech Tuesdays series.)

In a previous post, I talked about Croatian tech and how it is changing the world’s view of this small Southeastern European country. The blossoming tech industry has slowly been turning Croatia from a nation which has little else to offer but tourism in the eyes of most of the public to a nation of startups and innovation, not to mention remarkable entrepreneurs.

This is the country of Nikola Tesla’s birth, after all, and it has spawned some incredible minds. While Mate Rimac is still the Croatian name on everyone’s lips, Damir Sabol is another such great mind, so great in fact, that Google has purchased his app – Photomath.

A recap on Photomath – the Croatian AI solution was founded in 2016 by serial entrepreneur Damir Sabol. It is an algebra system with an augmented optical character recognition system which uses a phone’s camera to see and recognise mathematical problems.

The app then shows the user a simple set of explanations to solve the problem they’re faced with on their screens.

It has been downloaded by iPhone and Android users over 350 million times to date, and has been declared the most successful app in its field in the entire world thanks to its top quality results, the sheer number of users it boasts, and its speed in solving often complex maths equations.

Google puts Croatian-made AI in the spotlight

Google was quick to recognise the enormous value Damir Sabol’s incredible Photomath app boasts, and the European Commission gave the app’s sale to Google the thumbs up relatively recently.

Photomath is the most popular piece of Croatian-made AI at the moment, and it is as modern as a modern solution can get. Love it or loathe it, Photomath uses AI in a multitude of ways. It is used to recognise text, to solve the maths problem at hand, and then to interpret the results at the end.

Google sees Photomath as a way to one up ChatGPT

The word “ChatGPT” apparently appeared out of nowhere and has since walked the fine line between being useful enough to help humans and being so good it can turf human beings out of work.

It’s controversial, but it seems it is here to stay.

ChatGPT might be half decent when it comes to words, but it lacks quite considerably when it comes to numbers. Maths isn’t its strong point, and that’s where Google saw a golden opportunity with Photomath.

Google, being the tech leader that it is, has its own version of ChatGPT called Bard, and Bard has the same issue – it isn’t all that great with numbers. That’s where Photomath comes into it.

Given that this Croatian app uses AI and is focused entirely on mathematics, it will play a vital role in the ongoing battle between ChatGPT (OpenAI and Microsoft) and Google’s Bard. Experts have considered ChatGPT to be a very serious threat to the ginormous Google’s presence for a while now, and now it has the power of AI and maths in its corner, seemingly giving the proverbial finger to ChatGPT.

With the sale of Photomath to Google, Sabol hasn’t only successfully realised the largest financial transactions on the Croatian tech scene, but has ensured stability for Photomath employees. They’re all co-owners of the startup, meaning that they also stand to benefit from this historic transaction.


Read more about Croatia here in Dispatches’ archives.

Read more from Lauren here.

Lauren Simmonds

Lauren Simmonds is the editor of Total Croatia News, the largest English language portal in Croatia. She lives in Zagreb, Croatia, and is a translator, content writer, interpreter and the co-author of "Croatia - A Survival Kit for Foreigners," which was published in 2022.

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