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Venture capital investment around the world in apps and technology for parents has risen 50 per cent faster than total investment growth over the last decade, new research finds.

The research, published today by the charity Nesta, looks at parenting technology, ranging from toys that promise to teach children the basics of coding to cradles that can track a baby’s sleep.

Looking at trends from venture capital firms investing in start-ups between 2011 and 2021, the research found that global yearly investment in parenting technology has grown 15-fold over that period, compared to 10-fold across all sectors. The most popular area for investment in technology for parents and children over the last five years was in machine learning (systems that use algorithms to learn and adapt, such as by listening to speech), followed by ebooks.

Louis Stupple-Harris, Foresight Lead at Nesta and co-author of the research, said: “Investors are powering a parent tech business boom. New technologies are giving mums and dads access to a dizzying range of apps and gadgets to help them. For the parents that can afford them, the innovations that take off will increasingly change the amount of information and support they expect to have access to when raising young children.”

The research looked at a variety of the products being developed to help parents juggle their responsibilities, get support or childcare, monitor or even teach their children new skills.

Teaching your toddler to code

Some gadgets have been developed to help instil computer skills in children from a very young age. Toys like LoCoMoGo and Botley and products like SAMLabs help young children understand the basics of coding, while Cubelets teach children as young as four how to build robots.

Programming to help preschoolers speak

Services have also been developed that promise to help with kids’ early learning. Wordle and Wunder promise to listen in on conversations at home, measure the number of words a child hears, and give personalised tips on how to improve their development. Bookbot or US-based Ello can listen to a child reading a book and take note of mispronounced words. Lingumi can also teach children a variety of different languages.

Data tracking to keep a closer watch

Other gadgets continuously monitor children’s vital signs and health. Smart sock Owlet is designed to monitor a baby’s vital signs, and smart baby bed Cradlewise provides a gentle rocking motion and uses audio and video to track sleep patterns.

Other apps such as ParentPal and Nurturey allow parents to track their child’s development through hundreds of milestones, using AI to identify potential delays and other issues.

Apps to help busy parents

Some services are positioned as helping mums and dads with their responsibilities. Services such as Batelle Sleep School promise to have your baby sleeping through the night within two weeks, using lights and sounds to comfort them.

On demand digital parenting support is also available through apps like EasyPeasy, which provide personalised parenting tips and activities. Emerging super-apps like Maple help parents in the US to plan meals, remember appointments and track expenses. Platforms like Koru Kids provide training and tools to childminders and connect them with parents.

Concerns about mum and dad apps of the future

As services get more complex and powerful, Nesta has suggested that greater oversight may be needed for the data being collected, to prevent children’s privacy being infringed.

Louis Stupple-Harris added: “These innovations are creating opportunities for some parents to splash out on tools to support their children’s development, but it is important that the apps’ collection of sensitive data about children such as their learning and sleep habits is properly regulated.”

Nesta also wants more investment to be geared toward helping parents from low-income families to benefit from the potential of new technologies.


Notes to editors

  1. Nesta analysed venture capital trends using the Crunchbase business intelligence database. To identify companies related to parenting and early years education, Nesta used labels assigned to companies on Crunchbase as well as their text descriptions. The full selection criteria can be found here. Among the companies selected by our labels and keywords, Nesta considered companies that have recorded at least one investment round on Crunchbase and manually reviewed the companies to only select those that are likely to be relevant to early years (ie, for 0-5 year olds) and excluded those focussing solely on products and services for older children. In the analysis, a company can be associated with multiple digital technology categories. The final list of companies considered in this analysis can be found here.
  2. The research presented above is not an investment recommendation or financial promotion; it is Nesta’s analysis on general trends in Parenting Technology and associated venture capital investment. The products and services named are cited purely as examples which help to demonstrate the breadth and depth of products available and their inclusion should not be interpreted as an endorsement by Nesta. Nesta makes no representations as to the data security, reliability or otherwise of any of these products or services outlined within and readers should refer to the separate privacy notices for particular providers, as appropriate. It should not be construed as parent (carer) advice or solutions and readers should make their own decisions as to whether a particular app or service may be suitable for them or their children.

For more information on the analysis or to speak to one of the experts involved, please contact Kieran Lowe, Media Manager, on 020 7438 2576 or [email protected]. Spokespeople are available for broadcast interviews.

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