Zeetta Networks: Connective Issues
Zeetta Networks create software that helps 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. We talk to 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?
Bristol’s infrastructure for start-ups has changed significantly in the past 4 years, but there are still a number of challenges that are unique to Tech start-ups. Many technology companies have very exacting needs to support their work. Good, reliable, high-bandwidth connectivity was critical for our business from day 1, and we struggled with the ability for broadband providers to meet the needs of an agile business. In fact we had to wait over 8 months for a fibre connection before we gave up. Ironically, this is the problem that Zeetta Networks is solving, the ability to support flexible, dynamic on-demand connectivity.
As a technology company we have a lot of kit; servers, routers and racks that support both our development work and customer support infrastructure. This is different to many “traditional” businesses where the equipment required for a business to function is limited to laptops, printers and telephones. There are lots more shared offices and flexible workspaces in Bristol, but for many tech companies that office space also requires a “back-room” which may have non-standard requirements in terms of power, heating and cooling. I think for flexible workspaces that provide that environment will be very much in demand in the foreseeable future.
The other important aspect of infrastructure is the ability of the office space to scale as the company grows. Since we left the Engine Shed Zeetta Networks has grown to over 30 people, we were lucky in having an office space that was able to accommodate this growth.
What advice would you give yourself if you went back in time 12 months?
The importance of commercial traction. The key is to be very clear about the purpose of your technology. The question you always need to ask is “What business problem am I solving?” If you can’t answer that as a company you are in trouble.
How will the technology you're co-developing impact on digital connectivity for scale ups in the future?
Businesses of all types are totally reliant on digital connectivity today. Systems crashes, loss of connectivity, network failure and inability to re-configure networks in a timely manner have a huge impact on business today. Connectivity is critical for almost any business today from farming to logistics. Poor connectivity or inability to connect can cost businesses thousands of pounds in lost revenue and opportunity.
Zeetta Networks simplifies Network Operations (NetOps) the process of managing and configuring networks. Zeetta Networks’ NetOS® software automates services and provides a simple, easy to understand view of the network and its services. The upshot of this is that a lot of the boring, time-consuming but necessary work IT engineers carry out manually goes away, freeing them up to do more complex value-added tasks. It also means that for the first time, end-users such as hotel reception staff, office managers, shop managers can make changes to their IT network in real-time with confidence that nothing will go wrong. This has a huge impact on the efficiency of IT staff and empowers no-IT staff who sometimes find IT is the bottle-neck.
Moreover, we have also participated in two of the UK Governments 5G trials and testbeds programme projects - 5G Smart Tourism and 5G Rural First. These ground-breaking projects enabled the company to show how NetOS® could be used to “slice” 5G networks creating service-centric prioritised, protected and partitioned networks over shared infrastructure. This means that you can have multiple customers and services all working on the same infrastructure without fear of interference. This has huge implications for the industry because it means networks can be shared.
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?
Infrastructure and Ecosystem are important for any start-up. Having the right physical infrastructure: office space, “back-office”, transportation links etc. is important, but it is equally important to have the right support ecosystem.
Accelerators like the Engine Shed play an important role in bringing in investment and investors, but also providing mentors and training to help companies like Zeetta Networks to scale-up.
I also think it’s important to look outside Bristol, and not be too parochial in your outlook. London has a huge tech start-up ecosystem with training, support, investment and mentoring but it’s not the only alternative. Zeetta Networks is an international company and we do business today across Europe including Italy and Germany. Future growth may well include overseas expansion.
What advice would you give to others as they look to scale?
It’s all about people. Start-ups and Scale-ups are only partly about the technology and IPR. A huge part of Zeetta Networks success is due to its people. The company is made up of high-motivated, dedicated and hard-working people who want the company to succeed. We know how important it is to nurture and cultivate the company’s talent.
My advice is “Cherish your people because they are your company”.
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 unparalleled access to the local ecosystem of entrepreneurs, mentors, academics, professionals and investors thanks to its close links with Setsquared and the local Universities.
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.
We’re also very pleased to start working with Tech Nation who provide training, mentoring and support to start-ups.
Finally, as a company we see many benefits from being in the Temple Quarter Enterprise zone which has created a thriving business community in the heart of Bristol.