Solution overview

Our Solution



Helping families discover programmes of activities in their community

Pitch us on your solution

Across the globe there are programmes of activities designed to help a child's development in the early years. Breastfeeding groups, story time, sing and sign, weighing sessions and post natal support groups all contribute positively to a child's life during this crucial moment. Access to information about these programmes is universally poor however. Word of mouth is the primary method of discovery, which, as well as limiting choice, and lacking structure, means that families without sufficient social capital are left with few options.

Hoop is a free smartphone app that lists everything happening for children locally. Hoop utilises technology to provide the user with a comprehensive list of activities, all of which are personalised and age appropriate. In the UK Hoop lists over 100,000 activities each week.

On a global scale Hoop would help the 600M children under the age of five who can benefit from these vitally important programmes.

Embed your elevator pitch here:

What is the problem you are solving?

Across the globe there are early years programmes run by a mixture of local and national government, charities, religious groups and small businesses for the benefit of children.

However, gaining access to information about these activities is a regular problem. A study of Sure Start in the UK found that nearly a quarter of parents weren't aware of their local centre. Similarly changes in funding status, timetable alterations and venue closures mean that information about these programmes is regularly out of date. In the UK cuts to the family information service mean that it is often the case that no central information resource exists for parents and carers.

Information gaps such as this leads to an under-utilisation of these critical services. Word of mouth becomes the most likely means of discovery which advantages those with high levels of social capital or the confidence required to go out and find them. Where someone is isolated within their community these problems are even more pronounced.

Hoop's aim is to solve this problem by providing a free and universally accessible information service that is kept up-to-date using a mixture of technological innovation and human oversight.

Who are you serving?

Hoop is making an impact on the lives of children and their carers throughout the UK. The nature of our product means we reach families across the socio-economic spectrum; recent analysis showed that approximately 19% of Hoop's users are "income deprived" which puts us in line with national averages.

Hoop's origins lie in hundreds of conversations with families about the challenges they faced when trying to find programmes for their children. This insight allowed us to begin beta testing the app and refine it based on the feedback we received.

Hoop is built using the agile framework that demands regular interaction with our customer base. The decision to develop a section of the app devoted to activities for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) is an example of this.

Similarly regular customer surveys allow us to gain quick feedback on the popularity of recently updates to the app, and unexpected behavioural changes.

Anonymised analytics data is also of vital importance, and is often the catalyst for new avenues of research and exploration.

What is your solution?

Hoop is actually three software services in one:

  • Hula, our proprietary database that manages over 100,000 activities per week.
  • Hoop, a free smartphone application used by parents and carers to discover activity programmes for children.
  • Hoop for Organisers, our platform used by activity organisers to engage with our audience of parents and carers.

Each service works in tandem to allow Hoop to operate successfully.

At its core Hoop is an information service meaning that parents and carers install our app to get access to the data we have stored. Hula is critical to this as it allows us to manage a unique and regularly changing database of children's activities. Hula itself is a Javascript application that sits in front of a series of microservices all of which are hosted by Amazon Web Services. Hula is used by Hoop's in-house operations team, and our remote team, who collectively enable us to monitor the quality of our data throughout the day.

If Hula is the database of children's activity programmes, Hoop is the client by which families access that data. Hoop is a free smartphone application for iOS and Android that gives the user a personalised list of activities to search through. Because all of Hoop's data is structured effectively, families are able to search for an activity based on its recommended age, but also by category, venue, customer rating and time of day. For some activities the family can also book directly through the app, and therefore make use of digital ticketing and payment where necessary. Hoop is built natively for iOS and Android, meaning it's programmed in Java and Swift respectively. For two years running the iPhone app was selected by Apple as an "App of the Year".

Hoop for Organisers is the final piece of our platform. Hoop for Organisers allows anyone running a children's programme to market themselves to our audience of parents and carers. Much like Yelp, or Google Maps, using Hoop for Organisers an organiser can 'Claim their Listing' and begin to populate it with additional content such as photos, team profiles, customer testimonials and more. Hoop for Organisers is also critical to Hoop's commercial success as it is through Hoop for Organisers and our ticketing service that we monetise the product. Hoop for Organisers is currently used by over 13,000 organisations across the UK.

Select only the most relevant.

  • Enable parents and caregivers to support their children’s overall development
  • Prepare children for primary school through exploration and early literacy skills

Where is your solution team headquartered?

London, UK

Our solution's stage of development:

More about your solution

Select one of the below:

New business model or process

Describe what makes your solution innovative.

Building a comprehensive database of family programmes is not a simple task. There are no third parties that license the data, nor are there any governmental registries to access. Instead, Hoop had to build our own database from the ground up, making use of proprietary technology we call Hula.

Hula is a piece of software that manages thousands of publicly accessible stores of activity data, for example a local government website. Hula then efficiently distributes a variety of data tasks: for example verifying the location of a venue, to a team of remote workers who are based throughout the UK. Hoop’s remote team is comprised almost entirely of users of the Hoop app, many of whom are parents themselves, and benefit from working at home.

Hula allows us to efficiently manage a database of over 100,000 unique activities each week, providing unparalleled choice to the families who use our smartphone app.

With all the choice families who use Hoop now have, we were presented with a new problem: how do you best match a family to a specific activity? Here we have used machine learning techniques to observe a given families preferences, and present them with the best result at any given time.

Hula, our remote team, and the machine learning techniques we have developed to sort the wealth of data we have access to, make Hoop a quantum leap forward in a family’s ability to find programmes that are right for their children.

Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.

Hoop is a mobile application built in Java and Swift that makes use of the technologies that are synonymous with the device, mobile data connectivity, background syncing, geo-location and more. Hula is built using the React JS framework, and sits on top of a microservice architecture that ensures fast response times and dependability.

Our machine learning models make use of the scikit-learn library, along with ten unique “features”, and over 200GB of preference data.

Select from the options below:

  • Machine Learning
  • Big Data

Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?

Our activities 

Hoop’s propriety technology allows us to manage a database of over 100,000 unique activities for children each week. In a focus group parents told us that learning is a priority when they attend activities. This informed Hoop's Charter which guides organisers on developing their programmes.


Hoop is a free smartphone app that lists everything happening for children locally. Over a million people have downloaded Hoop. Hoop enables families to access a broad range of activities that promote learning through play, social interaction and engagement with other parents. 


Families attend more activities and events as a result of using the Hoop app. A survey of our users found that 91% of parents say they do more activities with their children out of the home since using Hoop. 84% of parents said that their child had found a new interest or activity they had enjoyed. 

The importance of taking part in activities on child development in the early years is evidenced through a wide range of theory and research. Play and social interaction are critical for the development of cognitive skills (Bruce, 2015; Vygotsky, 1980). Children in the early years and their parents taking part in activities together improves outcomes for parents including predicting better physical health and less parental distress, while the learning environment at home also improves (Sammons et al., 2015). For children as young as 5, taking part in extracurricular activities has been associated with gains in reading and mathematics achievements (Carolan, 2018).

Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.

  • Children and Adolescents
  • Infants

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • United Kingdom

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • United Kingdom

How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?

The Hoop app has been installed over one million times, and is used on a monthly basis by over 250,000 people. This represents a little over 10% of the UK's parent population, and while Hoop's service is not limited to parents, it demonstrates how many people we can expect to serve in the coming years.

Our hope is to cross four million installs by the end of 2020, and in five years to be operating across multiple countries across North American and Europe, serving a population in excess of 15 million.

What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

Hoop has three primary goals for the next five years, they are:

  1. Developing an evidence base for our work
  2. International expansion
  3. Reaching profitability

We have a firm belief that Hoop's work has a positive impact on children, parents and carers who make use of it. However, we have ambitions to develop and evidence base for this, and work with academics to gain a greater understanding of the benefits our service brings to its customers. This will also allow us to adapt and improve our service, to widen the impact it has, and make it easier to build partnerships with all sorts of organisations that expect some rigour to our assertions.

The problem Hoop solves is a global one, and so within the next five years we hope to have expanded our operation to multiple countries. Our first target is the USA where there are 24M children under the age of five, where there is no equivalent product. Following launch in the US we plan to launch in western Europe where there are another 21M children.

Finally we hope to reach profitability within our home market of the UK. While Hoop may require additional capital to launch in new countries, reaching profitability in the UK will reveal a path for all other markets to follow, and ensure that the impact are having today can have a sustained impact on our users, and not one that is tied to grants or venture capital.

What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?

Any academic research will take time and money to complete and so finding the right partner is really important. Furthermore, Hoop's team does not consist of anyone with an academic background, meaning we would ideally seek expert counsel before embarking on any project.

International expansion will require us to find a venture partner who is excited by our work in the UK and sees the value it could bring to the American market. A US venture backer would be the most logical fit, but having only raised money from British VCs to date, our network in the US is somewhat limited.

The single largest operational challenge Hoop faces on the path to profitability is building relationships with tens of thousands of small businesses. Our ticketing model is the most sustainable, and also the one most closely linked to our social impact, however to generate substantial revenue it requires Hoop to build relationships with many of the small businesses running family programmes.

How are you planning to overcome these barriers?

Taking part in SOLVE presents a unique opportunity for Hoop to gain links into the academic world, and also the US market – two of our headline goals for the coming years.

Attending professional conferences has so far proved to be a fantastic opportunity to meet academics who take an interest in our work. For example in the last year alone with have attended two primary care conferences in order to meet health visitors who regularly recommend our app to their clients. Doing has resulted in some early stage conversations with a university in the north of England who are interested in conducting some research into the perceptions of families using Hoop. This would appear to be a great tactic to building relationships with the academic community (in this research area at least) and is one that we could make use of in other areas too.

When is comes to working with small business owners our goal is to expand the number of tools our platform offers and increase its overall stickiness.  By stretching beyond ticketing we can build more lasting partnerships with the small business owners. Furthermore, we believe passionately that by building the best product we can for families and their children, we will ensure continued engagement from the small business owners. If all of their customers love to use Hoop, there will always be a motivation for them to work with us.

About your team

Select an option below:


If you selected other for the organization question, please explain here.


How many people work on your solution team?

Hoop is made up of 21 full time members of staff and two part time members of staff who work across operations, marketing, partnerships, design and engineering roles. We also have a 40 person remote team who make regularly contributions to Hula.

Finally Hoop works on a contract basis with an educational psychologist who helps us stay abreast with the latest research and topics that effect our work. They have taken part in outreach on our behalf, and also conducted focus groups and interviews.

For how many years have you been working on your solution?

Four years.

Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?

Hoop is not the first technology company the team behind Hoop have founded. We have been building smartphone applications and complex web services for well over 15 years.

Furthermore, Hoop's unique database technology (Hula) was first conceived in a previous business. In fact, the techniques we have developed to process, catalogue and store huge amounts of un-structured data have been refined for well over a decade. There is no organisation anywhere in the world with a database of children's programmes as comprehensive as ours, and it's precisely because of the experience our team has.

Hoop's origins lie in exactly the problem we have described. All of Hoop's founders are parents, and have seen first hand the challenge of discovering programmes of activities for our children to take part in.

What's more, Hoop's founder and CEO is also a community organiser, and hosts a free weekly two kilometre run for children aged 4-14. He has seen close up the benefits for children, and the wider community, of taking part in programmes like these, as well as the operational challenge of promoting them within the local community.

With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?

Hoop has no formal partnerships, however through our technology platform we have built many informal ones, ranging from local government to national arts institutions and health professionals.

By way of a few examples, Hoop works with:

  • The UK's ~12,000 Health Visitors by providing them with a downloadable resource pack they can make use of when visiting families.
  • The UK's largest children's charity to develop safeguarding literature for the activity organisers that use our platform.
  • The British Library in London to help promote their programme of family activities.
  • Islington Council Library service to list all of their post-natal and young children's activities.

Your business model & funding

What is your business model?

For the parents and carers who use our smartphone app we provide them with an unparalleled view of the programmes happening for children in their community.

For the organisations who run these programmes we are a vital source of new attendees.

To capture the value we create within this market, Hoop offers a ticketing service for any organisation who wants to make use of it. For ticketed activities that are free, there is no charge. For ticketed activities that have a cost, Hoop charges a 10% commission.

Providing a ticketing solution adds additional value to the parent or carer too, as it allows them to secure a spot for an activity using their phone, pay for it if necessary, and use their phone as the ticket itself.

What is your path to financial sustainability?

Hoop brings money into our business in two ways:

  1. Equity financing from traditional VCs, angel investors and the founders
  2. Revenue from our ticketing model

Our current financial forecast projects that we will reach profitability in the UK during 2020. During this time we may launch in new markets, which for a time would be unprofitable. However our aim would be to replicate our plan in the UK, ideally moving fast through each stage given the knowledge built up in our home market.

Partnership potential

Why are you applying to Solve?

As discussed earlier a key objective for Hoop is to work towards an evidence base for the impact our service has on children, their parents and carers. Hoop's team has limited experience in the academic sphere, and so we're hoping that Solve will introduce us to other companies that have completed this sort of work in the past, and academics who can share their expertise.

Hoop is motivated to launch our service in the US, and so the chance to meet with US based companies and mentors, and understand how our service fits into the existing early years ecosystem would be fantastic. While the problem Hoop solves is a universal one, we're also aware that cultural differences, variations in government spending, and differences in the education system will require us to modify our work in order to be most effective. Our hope is that being part of Solve will help us gain a greater understanding of what it will take to be successful.

Finally we're excited by the networking opportunity Solve presents. The "Ed-tech" sector in the UK is relatively small, however the time spent networking with counterparts in this field is always rewarding. The chance to speak with Solve participants from all over the world who are working at a similar intersection of early years development and technology will be particularly unique. The best way to solve any problem is with a diversity backgrounds and ideas, Solve is we the forum where we hope to gain this advantage.

What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?

  • Funding and revenue model
  • Talent or board members
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Media and speaking opportunities

If you selected Other, please explain here.


With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?

From the academic world we are interesting in building partnerships with:

  • Departments of Education and Teaching, particularly those with a specialism in the early years.
  • Child psychologists.
  • Health researchers who are interested in female post-natal mental and physical health.

We're also interested in forming relationships with organisers of children's activity programmes in the US, to better how they market their work to families and engage with the local community. New York Public Libraries would be a great example in this regard.

Finally we're keen to build relationships with traditional VCs, impact investors and trusts who are motivated by our objectives and excited about the opportunity to bring our service to the US and beyond.

If you would like to apply for the AI Innovations Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If you are not already using AI in your solution, explain why it is necessary for your solution to be successful and how you plan to incorporate it.


If you would like to apply for the Innovation for Women Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.


If you would like to apply for the Innospark Ventures Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If your solution utilizes data, describe how you will ensure that the data is sourced, maintained, and used ethically and responsibly.


Solution Team

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