Moonshot secures USD7m to tackle 'online harms'
Moonshot, a data analytics company which designs new technology and methodologies to identify and mitigate online harms, has raised USD7 million in Series A funding from Beringea, a transatlantic venture capital firm, and UK-based Mercia.
Moonshot believes the internet is increasingly used to propagate harm, including in the preparation of terrorist acts and the proliferation of child sexual abuse content, hate speech and the abuse of women in public life. Meanwhile, disinformation threatens democratic consensus and public trust in the media is at an all-time low. Yet the vast majority of US adults believe the internet to be mostly a good thing for both themselves and for society.
It is Moonshot’s mission to end online harms and provide vulnerable people with positive, supportive messages and services. Founded in London in 2015 by Vidhya Ramalingam and Ross Frenett, it was originally focused on countering violent extremism and terrorism. It now designs technologies and methodologies to reach people both engaging in and affected by a range of online harms, including disinformation, human trafficking, gender-based violence and child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Moonshot has delivered threat monitoring and analysis, digital campaigns, tailored interventions, and a range of other services in over 57 countries and 33 languages, for governments, tech companies, and international organisations. Moonshot’s clients include the Department of Homeland Security, USAID, the US Department of State, the UK Home Office, and companies such as Facebook and Google.
Vidhya Ramalingam is Founder and CEO of Moonshot. Vidhya is recognised internationally for her role leading global responses to extremism and terrorism. Following the 2011 attacks in Norway, she was appointed to lead the European Union’s first inter-governmental initiative on far-right terrorism and extremism, initiated by the Governments of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and the Netherlands, and launched by the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs. She regularly advises Big Tech and Heads of State on tackling white supremacy online, including recently the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Norway. She has testified before the U.S. Congress on the global threat posed by far-right terrorism. In 2020, she was named an Obama Leader by the Obama Foundation, and has advised the Biden-Harris administration on countering white supremacist terrorism.
Ross Frenett is Founder and CEO of Moonshot. Throughout his career, Frenett has worked to bring technology to bear on the issue of violent extremism. He pioneered an entirely new approach to combating violent extremism — online interventions — and has overseen pilot testing of experimental methodologies to deliver content to vulnerable individuals online. Ross previously served as Director of the Against Violent Extremism (AVE) network, a global network of former extremists, defectors and survivors of violent extremism seeded by Google Ideas. In this role, Ross supervised the setup and expansion of this program, working with hundreds of former extremists across the globe to advance efforts to deradicalise and disengage individuals at-risk of violent extremism. In June 2020, Ross was appointed the co-leader of the Communication & Narratives Working Group of the EU Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN).
Moonshot recently safeguarded millions of internet users across the United States seeking to access extremist and conspiracy theory content in the run up to the US election and through the 6 January insurrection. It has also recently partnered with tech companies such as Facebook and Google to safeguard users seeking to access hate and extremist content on their platforms.
Moonshot, which recently opened an office in Washington, DC, will use the funding to drive international expansion, further develop its tech stack and expand operations to allow it to counter harms such disinformation and organised crime. Moonshot will additionally develop its product to provide solutions in the corporate security space. Richard Fenning, former CEO of Control Risks joins Moonshot’s board as chair, along with Karen McCormick from Beringea and Jason Warren from Mercia.
Karen McCormick, Chief Investment Officer at Beringea, says: “It is not often that you meet a founding team that has advised heads of state alongside Facebook and Google: in Vidhya and Ross, we are working with entrepreneurs that provide world-leading perspectives on the global trends shaping the future of online threats. As Moonshot scales its presence in Washington D.C., Beringea will be working closely with the team to leverage our transatlantic footprint and build an international success story together.”
Richard Fenning, former CEO of Control Risks, says: “This investment marks a key moment for both Moonshot and the fight against online harm. The coming years will see incredible opportunities to deploy technology and expertise to do enormous good in this area. It is rare to find a company where the commitment to the cause is so tightly aligned with the ambition to grow and succeed. I am thrilled to be joining such a remarkable team of people.”
Jason Warren, Investment Director at Mercia, says: “Misinformation and online extremism are complex issues without an easy answer, yet tackling this new breed of online threats has never been more important. We were impressed from day one by Moonshot’s unique blend of subject matter expertise and technical understanding, and are delighted to be partnering with Vidhya and Ross in their mission to help governments and corporates counter online harms.”
Vidhya Ramalingam, Founder and CEO of Moonshot, says: “What makes Moonshot unique is the boldness of our mission, combined with our unfailing commitment to civil liberties, and to the people who are most affected by online harms. There has never been a more important moment for us to scale our mission. We look forward to demonstrating the true value proposition of fighting online harms armed with evidence and ethics as the guiding principles.”
Ross Frenett, Founder and CEO of Moonshot, says: “Moonshot is a new type of company. We don’t see social good as an added extra, something for the occasional away-day or well-meaning platitude. Solving the world's hardest and most complex problems sits at the core of our business model. In Mercia and Beringea we have found investors who share that vision for a better world. Our team are energised about using this investment to help millions of people avoid extremism, human trafficking and disinformation.”