Atlanta-based child monitoring startup Bark has closed a $9 million Series A funding round led by Signal Peak Ventures, with participation from Two Sigma Ventures and existing investors including Symmetrical Ventures, Fuel Capital, Hallett Capital and Atlanta Seed Company.
Bark’s platform uses machine learning to analyze text messages, social media posts and emails sent by children across 25 platforms, and identify potentially concerning safety issues to alert parents. Bark differentiates itself from other cyber-safety platforms because it only alerts parents when it identifies a potential issue, thus minimizing invasiveness and preserving the child’s privacy.
In its three years of existence, Bark says it has protected over 2 million children across the U.S. by analyzing over 1 billion messages; and claims to have helped identify and thwart 33 potential suicides and 12 school shooting or bomb threats.
“As children’s usage of technology continues to increase, there is clearly an incredible need for Bark’s solution, and we believe Bark is uniquely positioned to build a great company in an exciting category,” said Signal Peak Ventures’ Managing Director Brandon Tidwell in a statement.
Available on a subscription basis to individual families, Bark also recently expanded its no-cost school program in the wake of increasing country-wide concerns over gun safety and mental health issues.
Bark for Schools is offered — for free — to any school that uses Google G Suite for Education or Microsoft Office 365 Education. The platform integrates into the school’s existing technology offerings and alerts school administrators to issues within students’ emails, chat messages, online documents and more.
Those issues can include anything from cyberbullying and internet predators to individual depression, suicidal thoughts or sexting.
“Bark for Schools is the real deal. We didn’t have any sort of content scanning before getting Bark. Within a few days, Bark found multiple issues that would have otherwise gone unnoticed,” said Thad Schulz, Technology Coordinator at Sebeka Public School in Minnesota, in a statement.
“When an issue arose that could have been life-threatening for one of our students, a Bark team member called our school to help us take action,” Schulz said.
Bark was founded in 2015 by Brian Bason, a veteran of the social media space as former CTO of Niche (acquired by Twitter) and CEO of CrowdStream.
“Having worked in the social space for a long time, I was definitely cognizant of the high level of risks online for children. Technology is amazing, but it also opens up the doors for new risks,” Bason told Hypepotamus in an interview last year.
The startup went through the Techstars Atlanta accelerator in 2016 and raised about $2.5 million prior to this funding round.
Bark will use this round of funding to broaden its product offering and establish a presence in new markets.
“We’re constantly iterating on both Bark for Parents and Bark for Schools. With Bark for Schools, we just launched support for schools using Microsoft Office 365, and we’ll continue to look for ways to support parents and schools to keep even more kids safe,” says Bason.
The startup currently employs almost 30 and recently expanded to a larger office in Atlanta.