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An entrepreneur who was inspired to develop a foolproof swimming pool alarm for children after a neighbor’s toddler drowned is about to put his vision into production, thanks to the crowdfunding platform Funding Tree.

John Barstead was running an electrical engineering business in Johannesburg, South Africa, when the two-year-old boy died. In an area where many homes had private swimming pools, the death shocked the community and showed the mortal danger that deep water can pose to young children.

Now more than a decade later and back in the UK, Barstead has founded Dolphin Alarms and launched an electronic alarm designed to save other young lives. Developed in conjunction with Newcastle University’s underwater communications research unit, the device consists of a bracelet worn by the child and a receiver placed in the water. If the bracelet enters the pool, it instantly transmits a signal through the water to the receiver, triggering an alarm unit which can be placed anywhere in the house.

John BarsteadBarstead – who has two daughters and five grandchildren, explains, “Anyone with young children will know what a liability toddlers can be. But the reality is none of us has eyes in the back of our head, and an incredible 78% of infant drownings take place when an adult is present. Sadly a moment’s distraction can have fatal consequences. The Dolphin Alarm will trigger instantly if the child enters the water, and unlike existing alarms which detect waves, will not be set off inadvertently by adult swimmers or windy conditions.”

Barstead and his fellow directors have invested £120,000 of their own money to patent the technology and have successfully manufactured a series of working prototypes. They are now raising an additional £80,000 by selling equity in the business via the Funding Tree crowdfunding platform. The shares are available to all, and the minimum investment is just £50.

The funds will enable the Didcot-based company to go into full-scale production, and to begin marketing the product to swimming pool owners and hotels with pools in the UK and USA. It’s a sizable market – there are an estimated 100,000 privately owned swimming pools in the UK alone.

Dillen-Iyavoo-Funding-TreeChief executive and founder of Funding Tree, Dillen Iyavoo, stated,”Dolphin Alarms is the sort of business that we set up Funding Tree to help. With proven technology, a unique proposition and a substantial target market, it has the potential both to save children’s lives and to make money for its investors.


“Funding Tree is the first major crowdfunding platform to enable companies to raise capital through either equity or loans – and we’re proud to be able to connect promising businesses like Dolphin Alarms with investors seeking strong returns. With a minimum investment of just £50, we are giving investors both large and small, the chance to invest in start-ups and growth-stage companies, and providing British business with a comprehensive alternative to conventional bank finance.”