UK EdTech startup Bright Little Labs has secured investment from Turner International’s Digital Ventures & Innovation fund to help teach kids how to code through spy-based adventure stories. 

Turner International is the powerhouse behind Cartoon Network and a host of other global brands like CNN, TNT and Boomerang.

The funding amount is undisclosed, but it will be used to develop the platform, grow the London team, including new technical and operational roles, and power its international expansion.

Bright Little Labs was founded by Sophie Deen in 2015. The company then launched a kickstarter campaign in 2016 for its first product, Detective Dot, with the intention of making computer science more accessible to kids, parents and teachers alike.

‘Detective Dot’ is an espionage based adventure story which aims to teach coding and analytical skills to children. The company claims to be the first ‘edutainment’ startup to receive strategic investment from Turner International. As part of the deal, Christopher Sodergren VP Digital Ventures, at Turner will also take a seat on BLL’s board of directors.

Sophie Deen, CEO and founder of Bright Little Labs, commented: “We’re beyond excited to be partnering with Turner in the next phase of our journey. In a world of post-truth, job-automation and internet enabled teddy bears that could be snooping on you, digital literacy and critical thinking are key. It’s imperative that all children, regardless of their background, have access to these 21st century skills and we’ve seen first-hand that a hi-tech spy agency with empowering role models like Detective Dot is a great way to achieve this.”

She continued: “Not only do Turner share our vision, working with Turner means we can leverage their expertise in creating the very best kids content and reach new audiences globally.”

The partnership will enable BLL to develop its current offering, Detective Dot. The game follows its lead character Dot, a nine-year-old coder and agent of the Children’s Intelligence Agency, a fictional network of young agents who solve international mysteries. The idea behind it is to use stories to teach children essential computer skills to prepare them for the digital age.

Patricia Hidalgo, CCO EMEA and international kids strategy for Turner, said: “Turner shares with Bright Little Labs a passion for engaging kids in a way which is original and immersive. We see multiple opportunities to leverage our kids’ expertise to further develop Bright Little Labs’ existing business and engage kids in a way that while putting entertainment first also equips them for the skills they need for today’s 21st century world.”

Aksel van der Wal, executive VP of Digital Ventures & Innovation, added: “We saw in Bright Little Labs the opportunity to expand a great concept into an international multi-platform direct to consumer offering, in a way that fully embraces and utilises our expertise in kids, speaks to our desire to create new fan-centric experiences and aligns us with a like-minded partner.”

Detective Dot also aims to challenge racial and gender stereotypes by promoting diversity, something that’s key to a successful future in tech, Deen commented. “Digital literacy is a fundamental life skill, but there’s a huge lack of diversity in STEM (science, tech, engineering and maths). Less than 13% of the UK workforce are women or from ethnic minority groups. We need better role models ASAP so kids aspire to become coders and creators,” she said. 

“Detective Dot is a positive female role model and the Children’s Intelligence Agency is accessible to everyone – you don’t need expensive hardware, or to be a maths prodigy, to get into coding,” Deen concluded.