Innovation of the Year: Azoomee interview

Estelle Lloyd, co-founder of Azoomee and winner of the Innovation of the Year at the British Small Business Awards, tells us what winning the award means to her.

Azoomee is the winner of the the Innovation of the Year category at the British Small Business Awards.

The product was made to inspire and empower kids through hundreds of tutorials, shows, and games, all in one secure app.

Azoomee’s strong team was commended for its innovative app that helps young children stay safe online. NSPCC endorsement, strong financial backing and a key strategic partnership convinced the judges.

Explain your mantra, ‘Where children can be children online’.

It comes from the idea that the internet was built for adults, and parents tell us that their children come across a lot of inappropriate material online. You are only ever one or two clicks away from a major news website where potentially inappropriate material might sit.

We wanted to make it so that children can remain safe while online, using passwords and parental controls.

Was that the inspiration for you to start Azoomee?

My husband and I have three children and we were concerned about the way they were exposed to the internet. We thought how amazing it would be if parents didn’t have to worry about what their kids saw online while they learn. So we created a lot of teaching content and engaging videos and audio books on our platform using a system where parents don’t have to worry about their children going on other apps and seeing something inappropriate.

What was difficult about starting up?

There were a lot of technical difficulties at the beginning. We wanted to create an app that retained the interest of a user. Parents want their children to be safe and that process took us about eight months of testing and designing. It was a big infrastructural and technological challenge.

The other challenge was finding and creating content that can attract and engage children and their parents. We created a list of values that we were looking for in our content which included things like gender representation and values like team spirit, leadership, and courage.

We then sourced the content from a wide range of production and distribution companies and made sure that the material was as close to the values that we had set out as possible.

How did you acquire licensing for some of the properties that feature on your app?

There are some major distributors that license these kinds of properties and as we are new into this industry we had to build relationships with the right people. We formed a strategic partnership with the NSPCC and also work a lot with smaller distributors. Licensing can get very expensive but we have some great contacts.

What milestones have you hit on this journey?

We have won a few other awards. The strategic partnership with the NSPCC was obviously a big milestone for us.

Managing to get the funding was also a big moment because we have a product that requires very expensive licensing. We initially got funding from an investor and we raised early stage funding from angel investors. Then earlier this year, we managed to get some funding from Crowdcube. For that, we had a target of £450,000 but we actually managed to raise £800,000, which was amazing.

A few weeks ago we were also nominated for a Children’s BAFTA. That was for a production called Search it up – which was one of our in-house productions; a series of short-form episodes on how to be safe, smart and kind online using literacy, showing children what to do and what not to do online. It’s very sweet and we really like it! So we will be crossing our fingers for November 20th when the results are revealed.

Is there anything you would do differently?

I don’t think there is anything major that I would change. We have made a few mistakes but they weren’t large enough to really impact us. This is our second start-up – we’re a husband & wife team – and I wouldn’t go so far as to say we are experienced entrepreneurs but we have been through this process before.

One of the things that I would go back and do is to research as much as possible early on, looking at our market in depth, talking to the parents and the key players in the market and really discovering [the content] we need to provide.

What’s next for Azoomee?

We are gearing up to go international, which was the main reason for our funding. We are looking at the marketing and how to go about it. We have just confirmed that we have been accepted into the Mayor’s International Business Programme which is really helping us out.

We will be relaunching a new version of our product in January with a new user interface that we are very excited about. The main thing will just be continuing to gain more users and growing as a business.

How has the success of Azoomee impacted your life?

Its amazing to be part of this process and personally it’s a great experience to see the product grow because I have three children. I wanted to create this for myself and not just for the consumer and, more importantly, I want it for children because they deserve to have this tool and they deserve to be looked after.

I have talked to a lot of parents who have made the decision to keep their children away from the internet, which is interesting, especially when you consider that a lot of schools are now setting homework that they can only do online. You can imagine it is hard to tell your child they can only go on the internet to do their homework! That isn’t always going to work so it is good to give parents that assurance that their children can have safe fun online.

What advice would you give to other business start-ups?

I would advise joining a mentoring scheme as you can really benefit. They are looking for new ideas all the time so it isn’t a bad idea to join some of these. They are very well-connected and know the investors really well.

The main thing though is to research. My experience is that the more research you do on the product, your user base and who you are targeting the better position you will be in to make decisions for your company.

Congratulations to Azoomee on winning Innovation of the Year, we look forward to seeing further success from the company in future.

Further reading on the British Small Business Awards

Related Topics

Innovation

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