Antimatter is an edtech company that operates from a simple, seductive premise: if a student really understands a topic, they can make a meme about it.
“In order to shitpost, you have to understand the subject very well,” Jonathan Libov, founder and CEO of Antimatter, told TechCrunch last year. “In a way, shitposting is the highest form of consciousness.”
While it may sound bizarre, Antimatter proves his hypothesis about the power of shitposting as an educational tool. The company just closed a $2 million seed round led by Version One.
Tens of thousands of students and teachers use Antimatter to bring memes into the classroom. Students can create memes using Antimatter’s built-in meme generation tools on the web and iOS, creating visual jokes about what they are learning. Teachers can lead their class through group activities that use memes to help students synthesize information.
For example, in one activity, students are randomly assigned a prompt and asked to create a meme about the concept. Then other students guess what the meme represents. So if an AP Calculus student gets the “second derivative” prompt, they can create a meme that reinforces the concept that d^2y/d^2x, a more complex way of representing a second derivative, is the same as f”(x), a more familiar notation. Other activities encourage students to work together, each filling in the blanks on a meme template to represent a concept related to their studies; another asks students to write a text conversation between two characters from history.
“You can’t learn from the meme alone, can you? You learn from the discussion of the meme,” Libov told TechCrunch. “It’s the discussion during that review session when all the learning actually happens, when people look at each other’s memes and explain what they’ve created.”
The software behind Antimatter doesn’t just stop at memes. Libov says the ultimate goal is for Antimatter to become a platform for learning by solving puzzles (and yes, making a meme is a puzzle).
“In the long arc of history, we might be back to cave drawings. They’re visual representations of everything,” Libov said. “Where do kids go when they need to learn something? They don’t go to the blocks of text on Wikipedia and Google, they go to YouTube and TikTok.”
While Antimatter is designed for students, the company is also working on business tools for large companies (which could also help Antimatter generate some revenue). Libov imagines a CEO hosting a conference call about quarterly goals and then asking employees to create memes about the company’s strategy for the quarter.
“We’ve talked to some[Google employees]and when something new happens, they turn to memes,” he told TechCrunch. “Every company has this in their Slack.”
With so many powerful tools on the Internet, students are inundated with an almost never-ending stream of information. Now, with generative AI tools like ChatGPT, some teachers struggle to get students to actually turn in their own work. But with memes and community-based learning, Antimatter tries to motivate students to enjoy learning – and if learning is fun, why ask ChatGPT to write your essay for you?
Libov often jokes that the ultimate goal of his startup is to turn C students into C+ students. Sure, a better pitch would be that he wants to turn C students into A students. But what Libov means is that he’s not trying to put students through an intensive, rigorous tutoring regimen to get great SAT scores and perfect report cards. Instead, he just wants to make students curious and enthusiastic about their education. And if students gradually get better grades, that’s a bonus.