£250,000 raised for software that gets families talking
An ex teacher who developed a software platform to help children speak and write more confidently has raised £250,000 from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.
Hull resident Chris Williams’ system, Chatta, is already used by almost 100 schools worldwide and has been named as one of the world’s best innovations of its type by the global education charity HundrED.
Chatta, which is available free of charge to parents during the lockdown, uses pictures to engage children in conversation and develop their language and literacy skills.
The platform is based on techniques developed by Williams during his career as a special needs teacher, and later working with Hull City Council to find ways to improve children’s language skills.
Around a third of children aged five are behind expected levels of attainment in spoken language, which experts believe is due to families talking less because of computer games and social media.
Chatta helps overcome digital distractions and promote conversation.
Williams launched Chatta in 2013 and now runs the Hull-based business with software specialist David Waring, who is company CEO.
As part of the deal, the firm has appointed David Rasche, founder of insurance software specialist SSP and winner of the 2020 FTSE AIM Non-Executive Director of the year, as chairman.
The funding will allow them to further develop the software and expand in international markets.
Williams said: “Talk is the link between thinking and writing – if a child can’t say it, they can’t write it.
“Chatta creates opportunities to share stories and conversations within families and in schools. It gives children the confidence to speak to any audience and enhance their writing and vocabulary.
“In some cases parents tell us they’ve never before seen their child so strongly engaged with learning.”
Will Schaffer, of Mercia, added: “At a time when there are real concerns about the impact of digital media on children’s development, Chatta is helping to get families talking again and build children’s literacy skills.
“It is playing a particularly valuable role during the current lockdown, by helping teachers, parents and children to collaborate in remote teaching and learning.”
Grant Peggie, director at British Business Bank, said: “The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is continuing to support businesses during these unprecedented times and this investment into Chatta shows the importance of funding for businesses in Hull and across the North.
“Chatta is really making a difference to families at this uncertain time and we look forward to seeing the company continuing to grow with this investment.”
The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.