28 Jul 2020 | 03.14 pm
Kastus Hopes To Clean Up With Covid Killer
Dublin company developed an anti-microbial surface coating
28 Jul 2020 | 03.14 pm
Dublin company Kastus has developed a surface coating that kills germs of all sorts, including Covid-19. Founder John Browne (pictured) is hoping to clean up, writes Darren O’Loughlin
There aren’t many Irish companies that can point to the Covid-19 pandemic as a windfall for their business. Kastus can, as the Dublin firm has spent years developing a permanent anti-microbial coating that can be used on glass, touchscreens and ceramics.
A US testing laboratory recently confirmed that the Kastus coating stops the Covid-19 virus in its tracks, and since the result was made public Kastus CEO and founder John Browne says the phone has been ringing off the hook.
The Kastus liquid coating is applied to surfaces during the manufacturing phase, where heat converts it into a durable ceramic film. “The anti-microbial properties are effective for the life of the product and the coating cannot be washed off,” says Browne. When light falls on the coated surface, it kick-starts a chemical reaction that destroys viruses and bacteria.
Kastus Technologies was established in 2013 by Browne to commercialise anti-microbial coating technology developed in the Dublin Institute of Technology. Browne, previously MD of SmartGlass International, saw the business opportunity in the research, so he helped fund and adapt it into a viable business. The cost to Kastus for the academic IP was €400,000, paid in Kastus shares.
Kastus was helped on its way with €150,000 from Enterprise Ireland in October 2015, and further taxpayer funding of €100,000 followed a year later. The second tranche coincided with €750,000 investment by venture capital investor Atlantic Bridge, and €250,000 from Singapore investor Carragh Holdings.
Through 2018 Kastus ran up a loss of €800,000, bringing losses since startup to €1,035,000. However, the progress on product development was such that in September 2018 the venture tapped €2,750,000 in additional investment. This time the main investor was Indian venture investor Ascent Capital (€2m), while taxpayers stumped up another €200,000 through EI, and the University Bridge Fund VC invested €400,000.
The 2018 accounts don’t evidence much trade but, according to Browne, customers now include Zagg, the US company that makes mobile phone screen protectors, as well as large manufacturers of glass, ceramics and touchscreen devices around the world.
One of the largest startup costs has been securing patents and IP protection, which has cost Kastus c.€1m. Browne is now hoping to reap the benefits as companies scramble to find ways of keeping virus-free for customers.
“Our CTO, Dr James Kennedy, and his team were working for some time to get validation from third party testing laboratories that our surface coating was effective against Covid-19. We were confident that it was, but having external validation was a huge shot in the arm for our business,” Browne explains.
“A number of big multinational deals had been waiting on this validation before progressing to orders. Our sales cycles can be relatively long, anywhere from three to 12 months. Covid-19 has brought urgency across the board and it is not us doing the chasing.
“Businesses that use touchscreen kiosks for bookings and orders, such as fast-food outlets, airports and hotels, now require an anti-microbial solution for their devices. We have also had inquiries for our coating from medical equipment manufacturers and even coffee machine makers.”
Kastus is currently organising a Series B fundraiser that Browne hopes will be closed by this year. “The recent Covid-19 validation testing is helping the fundraising enormously,” he says. The company currently employs 16 people and Browne says that the plan is to triple headcount.
“We’re privileged to be a place of key demand at a time when the world is in a very dark place. I see the anti-microbial coatings space as a new category emerging from this pandemic. Hopefully it will even be mandated as standard on a huge array of products.”
Photo: Kastus founder and CEO John Browne