Antimatter is an edtech company that operates under a simple, enticing premise: If a student really understands a topic, they’ll be able to create a meme about it.
“To be able to shitpost, you have to understand the subject matter very well,” Jonathan Libov, founder and CEO of Antimatter, told TechCrunch last year. “In a sense, shitposting is the highest form of consciousness.”
While it may sound strange, Antimatter is proving its hypothesis about the power of shitposting as an educational tool. The company just closed a $2 million seed round led by Version One.
Thousands of students and teachers are using antimatter to bring memes to the classroom. Students can create memes on the web and iOS with Antimatter’s built-in meme generation tools, making visual jokes about what they’re learning. Teachers can lead their class through group activities that use memes to help students synthesize information.
In one activity, for example, students are randomly given a prompt, and they have to create a meme about the concept. Then, the other students guess what the meme represents. So, if an AP calculus student comes across a “second derivative” sign, 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 thing as f”(x), a more familiar notation. Other activities encourage students to work together, filling in the blanks on each meme template to represent a concept related to their study. another prompts students to write a text conversation between two characters in history.
“You can’t learn from memes alone, right? You learn from the buzz of memes,” Libov told TechCrunch. “It’s the discussions during the review session when all the learning really happens, when people are looking at each other’s memes and explaining what they’ve created.”
The software behind Antimatter isn’t just limited to memes. Libov says the end goal for Antimatter is to be a platform for learning through solving puzzles (and yes, meme-making is a puzzle).
“In the long arc of history, we can go back to cave paintings. It’s a visual representation of everything,” said Libov. “Where do kids go when they need to learn something? They don’t go to Wikipedia and Google for blocks of text, they go to YouTube and TikTok.”
Although Antimatter is designed for students, the company is also working on enterprise tools for larger companies (which could also help Antimatter bring in some income). Libov imagines a CEO hosting an all-hands call about quarterly goals, then asking employees to make memes about the company’s strategy for the quarter.
“We talked to a lot of people [Google employees]and whenever there’s something new, they turn into memes,” he told TechCrunch. “Every company has it in their stack.”
With so many powerful tools on the Internet, students are inundated with an almost infinite stream of information. Now, with generative AI tools like ChatGPT, some teachers are struggling to make sure students are actually doing their work on their own. But with memes and community-centered learning, Antimatter is trying to inspire students to find joy in learning — and if learning is a joy, 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 isn’t trying to put students through an intense, rigorous teaching regime to produce stellar SAT scores and perfect report cards. Instead, he just wants to get students curious and excited about their learning. And if students get better grades along the way, that’s an added bonus.