Fridge firm shows no signs of cooling down

Zeto co-founder Stephen Slattery

November proved a busy month for Cork software firm Zeto: It raised €600,000 in funding, got recognition fromEnterprise Ireland as a high-potential start-up, and was named best early-stage company at the Munster stage of the InterTradeIreland Seedcorn competition.

Supplying systems used to manage commercial refrigeration equipment, the company is devising plans to start selling in Europe and the US in 2014.

“We are targeting a turnover of €1.4m by the end of next year and we aim to grow staff size to 15,” said Zeto chief executive and co-founder Stephen Slattery.

Established two years ago by Mr Slattery and his father Michael, Zeto offers a system that can control all types of refrigeration equipment used in retail outlets.

“Through his company Slattery Food Service, my father has 30 years’ experience with refrigeration. He saw the problems that were caused when stores have three or four different software packages to control equipment,” Mr Slattery said.

They decided there was space for a company which could create a single solution “to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and automate compliance reporting”.

Stephen Slattery began researching the idea in 2010. In Mar 2012, he and his father registered Zeto, getting help from Enterprise Ireland which provided an ‘innovation voucher’. This allowed Zeto to get hardware for the system, designed at Cork Institute of Technology, while Mr Slattery worked on the software.

In early 2012, Zeto enrolled in an accelerator programme at Dublin City University, selling 6.5% of the company in return for €30,000 in funding. Enterprise Ireland subsequently provided competitive start funding of €50,000 which enabled the company to start trialling its system.

Early this year, Zeto took on its third full-time employee, a chief technical officer. “We now have three full-time and three part-time and are aiming to employ two additional software engineers by the end of the year,” Mr Slattery said.

Signing up for the New Frontiers Programme at CIT, the company received €15,000 in funding, which helped Zeto go live.

The first installation of the Zeto multi-vendor platform took place in May at a Paris supermarket, which is part of an 800-strong chain.

“We have a second trial in a supermarket chain in Poland, which has 2,200 stores and we now have a channel partner in the US which has lined up several trials in large retail outlets,” Mr Slattery said.

He said he expects some of the trial companies to sign up as paying customers in the new year.

Getting the product ready for market was one step. The next major one was to get the company investor ready. To help grow the business, Zeto took on two non-executive directors, Kieran Moynihan, entrepreneur in residence at CIT, and Liam Kelly, the former chief of LED company Nualight.

“We realised that we would need a significant amount of funding toget the company up and running on an international basis,” Mr Slattery said, explaining that it will be targeting the US and emerging markets in particular, since these have the highest demand for refrigeration technology.

Entering the Intertrade Ireland Seedcorn competition was a way of making Zeto visible to the venture capital community. Winning the best early stage company in Munster award was an added bonus, providing Zeto with €20,000.

The company secured €300,000 from Business Venture Partners in early November. “Enterprise Ireland is now giving us matching funding and we are being recognised as a high-potential start-up, which will be of huge benefit to us in growing the business internationally ” Mr Slattery added.

Zeto will use the funding to launch a recruitment drive, taking on both software engineers and sales staff. Expecting to have 15 employees by the end of next year, the company aims to double this in 2015.

Part of the plan to grow internationally is to sell through channel partners. Zeto signed its first channel partner agreement with a US company in November and is looking for others.

Mr Slattery said Zeto is an export-focused business which, in the long-term, expects to have exports of 95%. He is projecting sales of €8m in 2016.


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