Two decades after selling their startup to Microsoft, Eran Megiddo and Liviu Asnash are going back to their entrepreneurial roots. The longtime Microsoft leaders are the co-founders of Maximal Learning, a new Seattle startup that just raised a $5.7 million seed round. Maximal is using the latest advances in generative AI technology to give students personalized instruction that can cater to different learning styles.
Microsoft Vets Lead Secretive Education Startup Using Generative AI to Help Students Learn
“The ability to understand the learner and their intent, and then personalize a response to them — at this level, it’s never been possible before.”
“The ability to understand the learner and their intent, and then personalize a response to them — at this level, it’s never been possible before,” Megiddo said.
Megiddo was most recently a corporate vice president at Microsoft. He and Asnash spent more than 21 years at the tech giant, working on the company’s flagship products and also leading education efforts.
Their startup is targeting all age groups, including K-12 and higher education. It has a research partnership with the Stanford Graduate School of Education. “It’s a pattern that we followed when developing tools at Microsoft and is critical to ensure learning outcomes,” Megiddo said.
Megiddo didn’t divulge many more details about the product, as the company is still in stealth mode.
The hype around generative AI is already impacting education and learning. Schools are grappling with the use of tools like ChatGPT. Language learning apps such as Duolingo are integrating the tech into their products.
Speaking at an event last month, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said AI will eventually “be as good a tutor as any human ever could.”
“Seeing the magic that the software can now perform, particularly for reading and writing, but within the next 18 months for math as well … I am really quite optimistic that the field of education will improve,” Gates said.
“Seeing the magic that the software can now perform, particularly for reading and writing, but within the next 18 months for math as well … I am really quite optimistic that the field of education will improve."
Megiddo was Microsoft’s corporate vice president of education from 2015 to 2022. Asnash led groups that developed education analytics software.
“Microsoft is doing phenomenal things,” Megiddo said. Leaving to launch a startup is about “spending 100% of our effort and time focused on this one thing,” he said.
The co-founders are both originally from Israel. They previously worked on two startups together, including analytics software maker Maximal Innovative Intelligence, which Microsoft acquired in 2001.
Seattle-area venture capital firm Trilogy Equity Partners led the seed round. Other investors include Seattle’s Pioneer Square Labs; Honeystone Ventures, based in the Bay Area; GSV Ventures, another Silicon Valley firm that backed Coursera and Guild; and Owl Ventures, one of the largest edtech investors.
“We think Eran and Liviu are the perfect team to take advantage of the new powerful capabilities of generative models to finally be able to provide truly personalized learning at scale,” said Yuval Neeman, managing director at Trilogy.
Austin Beutner, former superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District and former L.A. Times publisher, is another investor.
Megiddo and Asnash are the company’s only employees. The startup will use the fresh cash to hire engineers and designers.