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30 November 2012

Funds join forces to support software to combat online child abuse

Press Release 30th November 2012

A company whose software helps safeguard against the risk of child abuse through social media websites has secured a significant investment from The North West Fund for Venture Capital and Lancashire County Council's Rosebud Fund.

Isis Forensics Limited, a spin-out from Lancaster University, uses sophisticated language analysis tools which can detect adults masquerading as children and grooming victims in internet chatrooms.

The technology, which profiles people's language use in online conversations, can identify particular age groups and individuals.

Already in use by some law enforcement agencies, it also has a wider range of potential applications such as detecting fraud and undertaking advanced market analysis. The company has already had approaches from partners and customers in these sectors and the funding will allow Isis Forensics to further capitalise on this both in the UK and internationally.

The deal is the first joint investment by The North West Fund for Venture Capital and Rosebud, both of which are managed by Enterprise Ventures (EV). It follows a change in focus by Rosebud to focus on higher-value deals and more strategic, high-value sectors.

The North West Fund for Venture Capital is part of The North West Fund, which is financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank.

Based at the Lancaster University's Infolab21, Isis Forensics was founded in 2007 by the chief executive Dr James Walkerdine, a university researcher who has worked on a number of law enforcement projects involving online forensics and cyber security.

As part of the funding round, it has also appointed Patrick Jolly, an experienced software executive, as a non-executive chairman. Patrick has had significant experience in the technology sector both as a professional adviser and within high growth businesses, including as a director of SurfControl plc, an international software company which pioneered a product allowing parents to limit children's access to unsuitable material.

While at SurfControl, he ran the operations outside of the Americas and more recently, he held a role with AppSense, the world leader in virtualization and employee consumerisation.

James Walkerdine said: "Language analysis software can play an important role in protecting children online. The technology we have developed has the potential for use by website operators, internet service providers, law enforcement agencies and children themselves.

"This investment will allow us to further develop products for each of these audiences and also enable access to the technology for other markets."

Douglas Stellman, investment director at EV, said,"We are delighted to have been able to work with Lancaster University to secure significant funding for this exciting new technology company, and to have helped bring about the first joint investment by the Rosebud Fund and The North West Fund for Venture Capital. It shows how regional funds can work together to support emerging businesses with the potential to address global export markets."

Lancashire County Councillor Michael Green, cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning, said: "Rosebud and The North West Fund are working to support companies in Lancashire, especially ones that can show high growth potential.

"Universities have an important role in creating a sustainable economy through high level skills and innovation. It's important that we support universities across the county to encourage emerging businesses and new ideas."

Laura Lovell, of law firm Cobbetts, which advised The North West Fund for Venture Capital on the deal, said: "We were delighted to act for The North West Fund in connection with its investment in what is an innovative and groundbreaking company. We are sure it will be a success for all parties."


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