Cool kids crack code

On October 15, 2020

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LEADER: Elizabeth Tweedale


CHILDREN’S computer education company Cypher Coding is looking to raise £ 1million to expand its training schools that get youngsters started with the technical know- how that workplaces of the future will depend on.


From websites and apps for smartphones and gaming, to self- driving cars, robots and finance systems, coding is the key, delivering instructions in software for them to understand and follow to perform tasks.


Yet while it is akin to the new literacy, coding remains an enigma to most of us. If it stays that way we risk being left behind, unable to progress, create jobs and saddled with social inequalities, says Cypher founder Elizabeth Tweedale.


“When people have coding skills they are more productive and open- minded about possibilities when problem solving,” she explains. “Acquiring the knowledge begins as young as possible so it is second nature.”


Part of the team that constructed Apple’s


Silicon Valley HQ, the Californian technology entrepreneur set up Cypher in 2016 first with in- person courses and after school clubs and, since lockdown, with live online teaching for four to 14- year- olds. After development of the tutorial platform and a home learning pivot, this half- term some face- to- face sessions will resume.


Its business model includes childcare support and using premises in schools, which boosts their earnings.


The moves will keep the business, which employs 14 and has seen revenue rise 150 per cent since 2019, on course for a £ 700,000 turnover this year as clients join from 10 countries across Europe as well as the US.


“Awareness about the importance of computer skills has been transformed, there is huge recognition now and our tutoring sold out in 48 hours,” says Tweedale.


Cypher’s approach is “accessible and innovative using real world examples, so whether children prefer sports, adventures or artistic hobbies it will appeal”, she says.


Conservation is a big draw for girls, with tasks such as programming a drone to track and recoup ocean plastic. Tweedale, with a group of angel backers, some grants and help from accelerators has invested £ 850,000 on a strategy of building a scaleable model as the first priority.


Sessions are privately paid for by families but Tweedale’s ambition is to work with schools so less well- off children do not miss out. Funding the equipment and tuition needed would come through corporate partnerships.


The next backing could be a venture capital raise before Christmas. Further rollout to other UK cities are planned along with a move into the United Arab Emirates and more regionally specific content.





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