London-based edtech startup Cypher offers creatively themed coding camps for children aged 5 to 14 with the aim of inspiring children to learn the skills needed for future success: coding, computational thinking, creativity, problem solving, communication, collaboration, and flexibility.
The startup has just closed a second funding round of €277k, bringing the total funds raised since launch to €480k.
Cypher was founded in 2016 by American-born serial entrepreneur, author and computer scientist Elizabeth Tweedale, who has been teaching children coding in London for the last six years. She saw a commercial opportunity to make coding more accessible to all kinds of children – not just those who are naturally technically minded. She also wanted to create a venture that would also have a positive social impact on children’s futures. Tweedale’s vision is to empower the next generation to navigate the changing world around us by understanding the universal technological language of code.
“When today’s school children leave university, technologies such as AI and robotics will be commonplace,” said Tweedale. “I truly believe it is our generation’s responsibility to educate children on coding and computational thinking in order for them to navigate this new reality. Children should embrace these technologies, rather than be intimidated by them. AI itself is a very ill-defined term that evokes fear rather than excites and inspires when, in its simplest form, AI are simply algorithms that are put together in different ways in order to find solutions to problems that humans can’t inherently solve very easily. We need to address that if we are to facilitate its adoption.”
The startup won the 2017 Small Business Grants and was selected for the Natwest Accelerator programme. It has grown from three to 30 teachers since its inception and has hosted over 1,000 children in its coding camps. Revenue has grown 330% in two years, with global plans to franchise the business in the US and Middle East.
Cypher runs extensive coding camps at schools during the holidays, providing childcare solutions for parents during these periods whilst providing constructive, interactive, and educational activities that go above and beyond the computer programming taught as part of the National Curriculum.
Cypher differentiates itself with its inclusive lesson plans, designed in conjunction with teachers and computer scientists, to show the creative applications of coding – from designing jewellery to programming drones to collecting ocean plastic. About 45% of the camps’ participants are girls.
“We use real life, creative examples to engage the students in the social value of coding and computer science – applying these skills to conservation, architecture and design,” added Tweedale. “I am passionate about the advantages technological developments can bring to wellbeing. Of course, in order to tackle the lack of gender diversity within engineering and other STEM sectors, we need to make science and engineering subjects more attractive to females, and show how exciting it is; it’s the perfect blend of creativity and problem solving. Encouraging more girls into coding and STEM subjects will help get girls into STEM and other subjects, which will help close the gender diversity gap in these sectors. The involvement of females during the design, production and implementation stages across diverse sectors such as engineering, architecture, product design, etc. will create products and systems that will be gender neutral, therefore creating a better world.”
“Strategically, Cypher is in a really exciting space,” said Michael Liebreich, who invested in this round and the previous seed round. “And Elizabeth runs a tight ship: she really understands the economics of her business, which is much too rare among today’s entrepreneurs.”