Teaching Children Online Safety: Expansion Loan for Hampshire Software Company

A software business specialising in programmes to help schools and parents educate children about online safety is the latest company to receive funding from the Enterprise M3 Expansion Loan Scheme.

Based in Rotherwick, near Hook, Gooseberry Planet has secured £150,000 from the scheme to help it penetrate this growing market. The platform uses ‘gamification’ to engage children and young people from the age of four upwards in a series of games and scenarios that will develop their awareness of potential online dangers.

With technological advances over the last decade transforming the way we communicate, children are being exposed to the online world from an increasingly younger age and schools are now expected to have appropriate tools to teach them how to operate within this environment.

When Gooseberry Planet CEO, Stella James, founded the business in 2013 it was in response to her experience as a parent. Feeling that the current provision of online safeguarding tools and training was not up to the task she worked in conjunction with local schools to develop a product that would effectively meet the needs of children, schools and parents.

Stella explains: “As digital natives our children are accustomed to using technology in much of what they do. This brings fantastic benefits and opportunities, which society is rightly embracing. However, with tech moving at such a rapid pace, we haven’t kept up with managing the risk brought by the increasingly easy and growing access our children have to the internet. It is imperative that we both educate and empower our children to function safely in the online world.”

Gooseberry planet tackles this issue not only by engaging children with its fun and appealing gamification approach, but also by providing up to date and relevant training and workshops for schools and parents alongside a platform which allows direct parent and teacher involvement and monitoring – something that is lacking in other products addressing this market. Furthermore, the platform includes built in evaluation tools that can be used for Ofsted inspections.

James Edwards, Senior Fund Manager at The FSE Group, which manages the Enterprise M3 Expansion Loan Scheme on behalf of the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, comments: “With more than 90 schools covering over 18,000 pupils signed up to Gooseberry Planet in just 18 months since the product was launched, the company is growing at a fast rate and management is now looking to capitalise on this momentum. We are excited to be supporting this innovative company as it rolls out its products widely and increases its Hampshire based workforce.”

Geoff French, CBE, Chair of Enterprise M3 LEP says: “Enterprise M3 LEP is always keen to engage with and support SMEs with a digital agenda; this is in line with our strategy to maintain our position as one of the most productive and fastest growing digital economies in the UK. Unfortunately, the growing threat of online safety and cyber security issues casts a dark cloud over the remarkable advantages offered by today’s digital world. We are pleased to be supporting Gooseberry Planet as it looks to extend the reach of its innovative technology to help more children stay safe online.”

The Enterprise M3 Expansion Loan Scheme is part of the Enterprise M3 Funding Escalator, a £5.5million initiative funded by Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership. The escalator, which also includes an equity growth fund, provides eligible companies with loans and equity funding between £50,000 and £200,000 for activities that will deliver high-growth and employment opportunities.

For more information about the Enterprise M3 Expansion Loan Scheme please visit http://www.thefsegroup.com/enterprise-m3-expansion-loan-scheme or contact James Edwards at james.edwards@thefsegroup.com tel: 01276 608531.

For more information about Enterprise M3, visit https://www.enterprisem3.org.uk/.