By Fred Grier
Meet Monal Parmar, a 25-year-old first generation UC San Diego Triton and co-founder and CEO of Educational Vision Technologies (EVT), an Edtech startup that uses artificial intelligence to digitize physical classes into a web platform which enables students to excel academically and saves universities money for the creation of online courses. Parmar, a machine learning graduate student, founded EVT in May 2017 along with co-founder Jason Bunk.
Read more below on how Parmar and his team are striving to improve education retention and the academic experience.
Technology: Educational Vision Technologies has created a system that autonomously generates online classes.
“It’s placed in the back of a classroom and generates notes for students so in class they can focus more on understanding instead of having to write everything down,” Parmar explains. “Our device captures the entire auditorium including all boards and projection screens. Using artificial intelligence it then generates an extremely novel interconnected learning platform, allowing students to do homework and study more efficiently.”
EVT’s team has strong domain knowledge in AI technology, enabling them to create a system which has a keen understanding of the environment, where humans are, what human writing is, and even eliminates chalk dust. The system generates notes from board writing, transcribes everything spoken, enhances presentations to make them more engaging, and connects all content together for novel information access efficiencies.
Origin: The birth of EVT stemmed from Parmar’s experience as an undergrad getting frustrated in class. Parmar elaborates, “I was having a difficult time trying to understand concepts while taking notes. I wished there was something that could take notes for me but nothing of the sort existed.” Parmar decided to take his education into his own hands after realizing how widespread and significant of a problem this was.
“We found that students across the board were negatively impacted by having to multitask through notetaking and comprehending the lecture, especially for students with disabilities which makes up 11% of the student population.”
Parmar soon connected with co-founder Jason Bunk, an AI engineer who received his undergraduate degree from UCSD in computational physics, master’s in electrical engineering, and machine learning focus from UC Santa Barbara. After working in AI research for the past year, he left his job to work full-time alongside Parmar. Buck won first place in an international DARPA competition, beating Ph.D.’s across the world, for detecting whether an image was forged using AI.
Customer Intelligence: Like many successful entrepreneurs, Parmar focused primarily on customer development before jumping from idea to reality. He shares, “Before starting development, we conducted interview with over 150 administrators, professors, and students. Leading to the discovery of opportunity and validation to a serious problem — students are not able to take notes and understand the concepts simultaneously.”
The Solution: With the implementation of EVT, students will have the opportunity to learn and grasp concepts without having to divide their attention. Outside of class, this will allow students to solve homework problems efficiently, filling many knowledge gaps and providing relevant answers.
Future Roadmap: Parmar explains why EVT can be much bigger than the startup’s educational competitors. “At UCSD, there are 6,000 classes taught per year. If we implement our fully automated system into 100 universities of similar size, that would be 600,000 classes added to our platform per year. Our goal is to leverage this massive learning network to personalize learning like never before!”
A key element of EVT’s strategic plan is personalized learning. “For example, let’s say you’re confused about a professor’s explanation of a topic; in this situation, EVT can recommend personalized additional resources from a different professor, which is huge.” Parmar explains.
Fun Fact: In the earlier days, Parmar and Bunk worked together on an autonomous drone project, UCSD AUVSI. This was founded by a few very successful UCSD alumni, such as Fresh Brewed Tech’s Neal Bloom, an ecosystem builder in the San Diego tech community who also chairs San Diego Startup Week.
Helping Hand: Parmar credits UCSD’s entrepreneurial resource centers The Basement and Institute for Global Entrepreneur for providing strong foundational knowledge, as well as mentors such as Silvia Mah, Eric Gasser, and Dennis Abremski.
Parmar says, “The amount of experience that mentors at the Basement have is huge. They help us dissect the problem we face very succinctly to provide valuable insight and powerful feedback.”
Pilot Project: EVT is at the tail end of development, has serviced 10 classes at UCSD over the past year, and has paying customers with many others interested in piloting. EVT’s goal over the next year is to expand into more universities to impact as many students as possible.
The Deal: EVT is ready to secure $700,000 in capital through its next seed round taking place in November 2018. This funding will allow the startup to expand the team as well as serve universities that have already expressed pilot interest.
Mission: EVT’s mission is to power learning across the world and increase retention rates. “We want to create a more educated society; help people reach their potential as human beings, have more opportunities, and obtain a better quality of life for themselves and their family,” Parmar says.
Passing the Torch: Parmar’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “Focus on your goals. Don’t get distracted. You must completely dedicate yourself to have a mission and never let it falter.”
“In order to make an extraordinary change; you need to make an extraordinary commitment,” he adds.
San Diego Scene: When asked whether he thinks there are enough opportunities in San Diego to sustain companies like EVT, Parmar responds, “The entrepreneurial ecosystem and support network within the San Diego community is extremely strong. Startup Week is my favorite week of the year. It’s like Disneyland for entrepreneurs.”
Because, Tacos: To help feed his entrepreneurial spirit, Parmar hits up the Taco Stand downtown San Diego where he recommends the carne asada fries.
Editor’s note: TritonTech is an original Fresh Brewed Tech series on UC San Diego students (current and alumni) who are blazing a trail in technology and entrepreneurship. These innovative ideas born in the halls of academia are making a great impact on our ecosystem and beyond. Don’t miss these compelling stories of passion, hard work and problem-solving by the next generation of entrepreneurs.
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