A digital learning platform aimed at children with autism and their carers has secured $3 million in funding from an angel investor.
Rockmelon was launched last year at The Studio in Sydney Startup Hub and provides curated interactive learning modules for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), developed with the help of clinicians, parents and experts in the field.
The skills cover a number of areas – independent living, behavioural, school readiness and speech and language – aimed at ensuring “all children are able to reach their fullest potential, regardless of their location or socioeconomic status” the start-up says.
The funding boost was announced last week, and will be put towards expanding the platform to new international markets.
The company – which has grown from one member of staff to 17 in the last year – was founded by Alex Andre de la Porte, after his son Beau was diagnosed with autism.
“My son is seven and when he was diagnosed with autism there was a lack of digital tools available to help him. I wanted to improve the situation,” Andre de la Porte said. “Early intervention can be very expensive so we looked at how we could build a product that could democratise the cost and give more people access to treatment.”
Andre de la Porte quickly appointed founder of Autism Awareness Australia, Nicole Rogerson – who also has a son with ASD – to the CEO role.
Stuart Waite, a startup founder and investor, was brought on to help build the company, since Andre de la Porte was, he says, “just a guy with an idea”.
Rockmelon – named after Beau’s favourite food – is currently being rolled out in the USA with Vanderbilt University and in the UK.
“We are also now in discussions about our next capital raise with investors,” Andre de la Porte added.
There has been a steady increase in the number of children being diagnosed with ASD over the last decade, thanks chiefly to greater awareness in doctors of how autism presents.
ASD affects about 164,000 Australians or 1 in every 150 people. Early diagnosis followed by individualised early intervention can provide the best opportunities for children to achieve their potential.
The recommended amount of therapy is a minimum of 20 hours per week, but the majority of children receive much less than this as access to therapist is extremely costly and often limited by location.
“Our mission is to change the lives of millions of children around the world and reimagine the way early intervention products and services are delivered,” Andre de la Porte said.