To help our aspiring entrepreneurs and future SETsquared Bristol members, we are showcasing a number of case studies demonstrating the breadth of tech and depth of success in SETsquared Bristol and what it takes to achieve.
SETsquared alumnus, Zeetta Networks, create software to help networks to scale fast. Following ground-breaking research and development from the team at Bristol University’s High Performance Labs, Zeetta was established with the aim to bring its academic and commercial sensibilities together. The team at Scale-up Generator had a chat with Zeetta’s CEO, Vassilis Seferidis about building the right infrastructure as you scale.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your growth? Do you think the infrastructure is available to growing companies locally?
It’s changed a lot in the last 3 years, but there’s still work to do. There are a few key difficulties surrounding infrastructure for scaleups. Broadband provisions can be a joke due to the inflexibility of accessing property to install fibre and the monopolistic attitude of the incumbent Telco providers. We applied for a fibre connection over 8 months ago and due to access issues and other delays we still don’t have a connection. In addition, many of the solutions offered are either too expensive with long term contracts or operate at low speeds – all of which slow us down as a company trying to grow.
Flexible, affordable office space can be difficult as well. Typical lease contracts require commitment of at least 5 to 10 years which are not suitable for a start-up company. We need more flexibility with these kinds of commitments. More short-term leases with renewable, rolling agreements of 6-12 months, furnished and unfurnished options and the ability to expand in the same building as you scale.
What advice would you give yourself if you went back in time 12 months?
Do not believe the promises of the Broadband service providers when they say “We will be able to deliver a new fibre connection to your new offices within 40 days latest!” and, secondly, start looking for new office premises at least 6 months in advance!
How will the technology you’re co-developing impact on digital connectivity for scale ups in the future?
Ironically, Zeetta Networks is addressing exactly the problem we are suffering from today, namely poor or unavailable broadband connectivity to small and medium companies and the wider population.
Our software is able to transform the telecommunication network into a programmable platform which enables faster and cheaper deployment of new broadband connections. To make this possible, our software must be installed in the Telco’s network and we are currently talking to several major service providers to accelerate its adoption.
Moreover, we also participate in several testbeds and trials of implementing the same technology in the next generation of mobile phone networks (5G) to make sure that there is a healthy competition in the market and everyone has at least few options in choosing broadband connectivity delivered over a fibre land-line or mobile network.
Looking to the future, how will you make sure you have access to the right digital connectivity, office and support as you continue to grow?
The UK Government recently published its “Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review” which has set clear and ambitious targets for the availability of full fibre and 5G networks across the country. We believe that the review is a step in the right direction and we hope it would ignite new channels of competition within the UK telecoms industry and provide transitions for emerging technologies such as 5G.
More importantly, the call for better mechanisms to allow consumers to easily switch to better network infrastructures could be transformational. It would reduce barriers and the long delays associated with gaining right-of-way access for installation.
What advice would you give to others as they look to scale?
Several. In terms of broadband connectivity, make sure you consider all possible broadband options available. Some smaller independent fibre networks such as CityFibre, ITC, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear have gradually increased their network and provide broadband connectivity options often with more flexible terms and conditions compared to the larger incumbent players. You should also consider alternative ways to complete the “last-mile access problem”. For example, a wireless point-to-point connection may be able to bridge a short distance between your offices and another location where fibre connectivity is available. Most service providers would be willing to discuss this option and provide the necessary equipment and expertise to make it happen.
What tools, people or services would you recommend to others locally as they look to scale?
There are a few we’ve found to be valuable. Engine Shed provides an unparallel access to the local ecosystem of entrepreneurs, mentors, academics, professionals and investors thanks to its close links with Setsquare and the local Universities.
Additionally, Business West is an excellent networking hub offering a comprehensive range of activities for a start-up or scale-up company including business mentoring and advice, export support and engagement in relevant activities for your business.