Family history website vies for US prize

Paul Brooks co-founder of Twile
Paul Brooks co-founder of Twile

A digital start-up from Sheffield is in the semi-finals of a competition to find the best family history website – and the winners will share $100,000.

Paul Brooks and Kelly Marsden will present Twile at a live pitching event at RootsTech – the largest family history event in the world. The conference, in Utah, USA, next month, is expected to attract more than 23,000 people,

Twile allows users to securely upload photos to a timeline and invite members of the family to view them and upload their own.

At the event 12 developers and tech entrepreneurs from around the globe will present their cutting-edge applications. Six finalists will go through to the Innovator Showdown, a live final on Friday, February 5, to win a share of $100,000.

Paul, from Doncaster, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been chosen for the semi-finals of the Innovator Showdown. This really is the biggest competition for our industry and we think Twile perfectly matches the criteria – discovering, preserving and sharing family stories across generations.

“The conference is hosted by the largest genealogy organisation in the world, FamilySearch, and it is a great opportunity for us to meet a lot of the people we’ve been talking to in the US over the last year.”

Twile was launched as part of the DotForge Accelerator – a 12-week bootcamp for six digital start-ups – in Sheffield three years ago. It was backed by Plusnet founder Lee Strafford. Today Twile has thousands of users.

Twile is a secure, visual timeline that allows parents to safely share photos of their family lives. It allows users to upload photos to their own secure, invite-only, ad-free digital family album.

Mr Strafford said: “Twile’s timeline is innovative and has the scale to reach global markets.”

Successful start-ups from the first Dotforge course include Flowify and Delver. Flowify makes Sofia, an application to make restaurant waiting staff more efficient. It raised £46,000 through investors and borrowed £40,000 last year. Delver lets people talk to computers through ‘natural language programming’.

Emma Cheshire is the chief executive and co-founder of Dotforge.

She was responsible for raising the investment funding of £500,000 to launch the first Dotforge programmes, which she went on to run in 2013 and 2014.

Her commitment resulted in a further £1.5million investment in partnership with Key Fund and the RSA to pilot Dotforge Impact, a social accelerator in Sheffield for social enterprises.

Dotforge then expanded to Leeds and Manchester and into healthcare.

A Health and Data accelerator scheme starts in Leeds on February 16. It aims to create ‘data-driven‘ applications to help patients, clinicians, GPs and health workers save time and money.