WizeNoze wants to make information on the internet easier to find and understand for children and youths (6 to 15-year-olds). The company builds technology for search engines that produce age-relevant information. Websites are classified in age categories based on their content. In addition to the search engine, WizeNoze has technology that can translate content for adults into content for children semi-automatically. WizeNoze sells its technology to organisations that want to make information suitable and searchable for children. The successful application for an Innovation Credit means that they now have sufficient funding to continue the development of this technology.
‘Youths use Google just like adults to find information on internet. But their search queries often leads them to information that is unsuitable or difficult for them to understand,’ explains Diane Janknegt. Diane founded WizeNoze in 2013 together with Theo Huibers, professor of information retrieval at the University of Twente and specialised in internet technology for youths. ‘Internet is not designed for young people: sites like Wikipedia are unsuitable because the language they use is too difficult, and Wikikids is an unreliable source because the content is provided by children.’
Viable business model
The University of Twente has conducted research into search technology that enables internet information to be adapted according to the needs of young people. However, the existence of this need is not a business plan in itself. ‘Our challenge was to create a viable business model,’ explains Janknegt. ‘The development of new technology is expensive and it is clear that we will not easily be able to make money off a search engine if there are no advertising revenues.’ WizeNoze will generate the necessary revenues by selling the technology to businesses and organisations that want to develop suitable content for children and to information providers such as learning platforms, databases and websites.
Financing the development
WizeNoze soon found investors who recognised the value of improving internet access for children and were willing to finance the development of the technology. WizeNoze applied for an Innovation Credit to fill the remaining funding gaps. ‘I see the fact that our application was approved as a kind of quality mark. We submitted our application in cooperation with a number of specialised consultants, because we were unfamiliar with how this works and we wanted to focus on what we do best: the development of this new technology.’
Meeting the requirements of Innovation Credit
‘One of the most important questions for Innovation Credit was: is your development approach systematic and will technical risks be mitigated early in the project? We had no trouble demonstrating the innovativeness of our product: our algorithms for recognising and classifying content are unique.’ RVO.nl also wanted to know about the members of the team and of course about the business model. ‘Not only did we have to demonstrate that there was a market, but also that companies actually wanted to buy our product. We have found these first customers and we have already processed their feedback in our technology.’
WizeNoze will reach an important milestone at the start of the 2015-2016 academic year. ‘We will offer free licenses for jouwzoekmachine.nl (‘your search engine’) to schools so we can test the technology. We need the user data in order to fine-tune the technology. We have deliberately chosen to leave the product partially unfinished, because we want to develop it further based on the feedback. We are now in this final development phase, and various schools have already tested jouwzoekmachine.nl. The teachers were very happy with the product, although the children thought that there was too little content available. They are right. There is not enough content available for children aged from 6 to 15 years. Based on those search queries that produced no results, we plan to actively approach content providers and ask them if they will make their content suitable and accessible for this target group. We will also include restricted sources and content which will enrich the users’ search experience and the internet and make it more suitable for children.’