The Irish Times 2017 Innovation Award winner Kastus is on target to double staff numbers by the end of the year following a move to new headquarters and the closing of a €3 million funding round. The company, which has created revolutionary technology to kill and prevent the spread of superbugs, is also close to signing two multimillion-euro contracts with leading international ceramics and glass manufacturers.
The company has developed an antimicrobial spray coating which can be applied to glass and ceramics during or after manufacture or added to plastics and paint to protect surfaces from harmful bacteria and micro-organisms, such as MRSA and E.coli. The coating has a proven 99.99 per cent kill rate against harmful bacteria, fungi and antibiotic-resistant superbugs which makes it particularly useful for products such as ceramic tiles and glass used in hospital or other settings where hygiene is at a premium.
“It’s a very exciting time for the company”, says chief executive John Browne. “We completed our A-series funding round in the last few weeks and that has given us the financial backing to put resources behind our growth plans. Our marketing budget for 2019 alone is €500,000. We have appointed international sales agents in the UK and Italy to build on the two major contracts we hope to have in place by October and we have committed to six international trade shows in 2019.”
Recruitment has also been gathering pace. “We just have taken on five people for the commercialisation team. They are a great mix of young talented people and we are incentivising them and providing them with the tools required to close international deals. They are all very well educated, smart young people who are enthusiastic about what we are doing, and we have been very lucky to find them.”
The company plans to double its staff numbers to 28 by early in the fourth quarter of this year.
The five new recruits are Emma Corbett, who is heading up marketing; Daniel Misturini and Darragh Gillen, who have taken up roles as international sales executives; William Denning, who looks after after technical sales; and Paul Burtenshaw is business development manager linking up the sales and marketing efforts.
Browne explains that smaller firms face difficulties in recruiting high-calibre people. “It’s a challenge for high-growth companies like ours to compete with multinationals for talent,” he says. “But we were lucky to have uncovered people who had been following our story in the media and wanted to come and work for us.
“That was one of the unexpected benefits of winning The Irish Times Innovation Award,” he continues. “It brought us to public attention. I hadn’t thought of that myself. One guy who started with us last month is a masters in chemistry graduate from UCD. His whole class had been snapped up by big pharma but he wanted to come to work for us because he had followed our story. We now have 14 people working for us and the plan is to double that to 28 by early in the fourth quarter of the year. It’s great to have such an excellent team working for us.”
Next on the horizon for Kastus is the move to new offices. “We are moving into new dedicated offices in Cookstown in Tallaght at the end of the month,” says Browne. “It’s a very central location for staff and customers being near the Luas and the M50 and so on. The new offices are being fitted out to a very high specification. We want it to be a good place for our staff to work as well as one where we can bring customers to demonstrate our products and so on. We are also engaged in a complete rebranding of the company with Dublin firm Designworks. The only thing we are keeping is the name. The aim is to have something that reflects what we do and our values.”
Continued innovation is also high on the agenda for the future. “We are involved in some extremely interesting R&D projects at present,” Browne notes. “A variety of international manufacturers in areas such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals are approaching us with increasing frequency to discuss new product development. Our director of innovation and operations, Dr James Kennedy, is collaborating with a number on them on some very exciting projects.”