As awareness grows around the dangers the internet poses to children, more companies have entered the fray with solutions to combat the various threats.

M12, the venture capital arm of Microsoft, has taken a significant stake in London-based ad tech firm, SuperAwesome, which was started by Irish entrepreneur Dylan Collins.

The company, which was established in 2012, raised $17 million in its latest funding round, taking the company’s overall investment to more than $60 million. The latest round was led by M12 and included participation from existing investors such as Mayfair Equity Partners and Hoxton Ventures.

SuperAwesome is a kid-safe marketing platform that operates as a bridge for brands to reach those aged between six and 16. It includes a number of channels across physical, digital and mobile, including its “Instagram for Kids” app, PopJam.

“It was very important to align with investors who share our values”

The company’s customers include LEGO, NBC Universal, Hasbro and Mattel. The company helps these, and others adhere to and comply with laws such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in Europe, COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule) in the US and the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) in California.

Last week, the UK’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, published the Age Appropriate Design Code which sets out standards that are intended to help protect the privacy and safety of children when they go online.

“It was clear we had a common set of perspectives about what the future of the internet looks like”

Discussing the latest investment, SuperAwesome CEO Dylan Collins said; “We’re extremely pleased to welcome M12 on board as investors. As the company building the kid tech infrastructure that makes the internet safer for children, it was very important to align with investors who share our values.

“With Microsoft’s leadership in privacy and of course their acquisition of Minecraft, it was clear we had a common set of perspectives about what the future of the internet looks like.”

“Children are exposed to the internet far earlier than before, and there are some 170,000 new kids going online every day”

M12’s financial stake in SuperAwesome makes a great deal of sense for Microsoft from a strategic perspective too, given that Microsoft has to comply with various parental consent regulations in markets around the world, while it also offers digital identity management software to its own clients.

“We were really impressed with what Dylan Collins has built. It is a very mission-driven company, building a safer internet for children,” says Nagraj Kashyap, Microsoft corporate vice president and global head of M12.

“Children are exposed to the internet far earlier than before, and there are some 170,000 new kids going online every day. Yet there is no good mechanism to ensure the responsible use of data. A lot of companies have simply put age gates on their sites and we know these don’t work. I have a 14-year-old son and he knows exactly how to get around these,” he added.

Since launching in 2016, M12 has so invested in 87 companies. The London office joins an M12 network that includes offices in San Francisco, Seattle, Tel Aviv and Bengaluru.

By Stephen Larkin

Published: 28 January, 2020

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