It’s hard to believe that Mahya Mirzaei didn’t always love mathematics. It was only after briefly having a maths tutor as a twelve year-old, and feeling her learning to be a little ahead of her peers, that she started to wonder how far ahead she might be able to get. That desire led her to excel in the subject at school and go on to complete an honours degree in aeronautical space engineering, a PhD in space robotics and, most recently, establish Learned Hub, a tutoring business that is about to trial in high schools.
The 26 year-old, who just completed UTS’s three-month Hatchery+ accelerator program, didn’t set out to start a business. It all began when she made a startling discovery while helping out her sister with her maths studies. Mirzaei watched on while her sister despaired at not being able to understand a textbook.
“When I couldn’t understand I’d say, ‘This person is stupid – how could they write the text book in a way I can’t understand?’ I would throw it away, get another textbook and not give up until I’d mastered the concept,” says Mirzaei.
“It’s a complete myth that some people just can’t do mathematics. The only distinguishing factor between my sister and I was that I believed I could do it, while she believed she couldn’t.”
Her sister is a case in point. She went on to study engineering and five years later became a manager in the field.
Next up, Mirzaei helped her now husband, and co-founder, Mitchell Knox. “Mitchell has always had a love of aeronautical engineering. He started making planes out of paddle pop sticks at three. But when I met him, he was struggling with his technical subjects.”
Knox is now an Aeronautical Engineer working for Boeing and is one of the youngest engineers with aircraft design sign-off authority.
Dozens of tutoring jobs followed, all confirming Mirzaei’s belief in Henry Ford’s adage, “whether you believe you can or you can’t – you’re right.”
It was this belief that led her to establish Learned Hub.
During the Hatchery+ program with advice from mentors and established entrepreneurs she refined the business plan to make it more scalable. This included adding features such as the ability for users to take a photo of their maths problem and receive a step-by-step video solution within minutes. She also developed a concept for video textbooks which she is working on now.
Mirzaei is going to Stanford University next year where she'll be working closely with lawyer, scholar and media entrepreneur Dr Roland Vogl to research startup ventures. She will also be developing a mathematical model to predict startup success and will continue to develop Learned Hub.
She says her goal in life is to make a difference to as many people’s lives as possible, “I believe mathematics can equip people to change the world.”