Making it Work

Making It Work: Cork edtech start-up aims to make exercise ‘kuul’ again for kids

Kuul Play was founded by former national athletics champion Clare McSweeney after she noticed the majority of children shun sports and exercise

Clare McSweeney, founder, Kuul Play. ‘For every child actively taking part in sport, three are not. I decided to take a science-based approach’ . Picture: John Allen

Kuul Play, a Cork-based edtech platform aimed at helping kids to become more active, is planning to launch its first funding round later this year as it seeks to grow its presence in the US market.

Founded in 2020 by Clare McSweeney, a former national athletics champion who went on to compete in US college athletics, Kuul Play provides a digital software solution that empowers kids to lead healthy and active lifestyles.

McSweeney said her idea for the business came after she started working with primary schools in Cork to help get children more active and involved in sport.

“I could immediately see that our schools are struggling to get kids engaged with sports and physical education. The experience of kids today has changed compared to when I was growing up, and the majority of children are not engaged in physical activity,” McSweeney said.

Daily Briefing

For all the latest developments in business, politics and tech straight into your mailbox every morning, sign up to the Business Post’s daily briefing

“That’s when I decided to develop a new play experience for kids under 12 that will engage them in movement. It’s about building physical literacy in our children so that they can enjoy movement for life,” she said.

McSweeney is better qualified than anyone to have developed such a business. Having competed at national level in Ireland throughout her school years, the Cork native was awarded an athletics scholarship to California University of Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh, where she completed a masters in exercise science and health promotion.

After graduating, McSweeney spent a year working with high performance collegiate and NFL football stars on movement mechanics and injury prevention, before returning to Cork to take up a role with Apple, the US tech giant, as a wellness and fitness specialist.

Fact File

Founded: 2020

Founder: Clare McSweeney

Headquarters: Cork, Ireland and Sacramento, California

“When I came back to Ireland and started volunteering with schools and clubs, I could see that the majority of kids are not participating in sport or physical activity. For every one child that is actively taking part in sports, three are not,” she said.

“That’s why I decided to take a science-based approach to solving this problem, and change the story for those kids. When I was creating Kuul Play, I knew I had to create a play experience for kids that involves technology but something that also takes them away from the screen,” McSweeney added.

Kuul Play initially partnered with Sport Ireland and Athletics Ireland to trial its new platform with schools around the country, but McSweeney’s experience competing in American athletics meant she was keen to launch in the US market.

“In 2022 we set up a presence in the US, because it’s where we need to be. We’ve build a really strong base in California so far and we’re allied with a number of US agencies such as the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee, the Department of Health and the Aspen Institute of Sports,” McSweeney said.

She added that the company is currently in negotiations with a number of US sports brands interested in partnering with Kuul Play in a bid to understand the behavioural insights of the next generation of potential athletes.

Kuul Play is part of Enterprise Ireland’s High-Potential Start-Up (HPSU) unit, and McSweeney said the state’s business support agency has provided invaluable help as her company started off in the US market.

“EI have been huge for us. They’ve helped us build our presence in the US market through their network of international offices and we’re now ready to launch our first funding round after coming into their HPSU unit,” she added.