In the first of EIIS fundraiser profiles series, Damian Young of Zeus has kindly shared some details on his business and their latest EIIS fundraising round.
Please Tell us a bit about ZEUS
ZEUS was established in 2019 to meet the growing demands of the global Micro Mobility Market. It was founded by Damian Young and immediately set about creating a differentiated proposition for this global market. The company designed a first-in-the-world THREE-WHEELED sharing scooter that was designed to be safer, more stable and attract a wider demographic of user. Since launch, the company has proven its safety record versus all other European Players, boasting a 10x lower incidence of accidents.
Moreover, the company has also attracted a wider range of users, older generations, females and first-time users. ZEUS also focuses on second and third-tier cities, where micro mobility is under-penetrated and has a high demand. This strategy has enabled the company to expand to more than 65 locations globally across 8 countries.
The company has invested in over 9,000 vehicles, deployed in its 65 locations. It has become the largest Irish Micro Mobility company while also one of the fastest-growing in Europe. Delivering almost €12m in cumulative revenues since launching in 2020, ZEUS is on track to hit full profitability in 2024.
Tell us about yourself?
Damian Young is a former banker with more than 30 years of experience in Financial Services, SMEs and senior management. During his tenure with Bank of Ireland, Damian was Director of SMEs for the bank and was responsible for many of the small business initiatives that remain in the bank today. From 2014, Damian was Managing Director of a Silicon Valley based company working with global banks on Price Optimisation through an analytically driven SAAS platform. In 2019, he formed ZEUS having observed the growth of micro mobility in Europe, North America and Australia.
What are your expansion plans?
ZEUS has remained ambitious from Day 1 and has brought a unique proposition to the market. It has innovated through its journey, creating the world's first three-wheeled sharing scooter, designing and building proprietary software, developing a unique financial model that enables profitability and introducing new products to the market.
It continues its ambition to further expand its product in new and existing markets globally. Coupled with this, it has introduced other forms of micro mobility transport to its fleet, offering e-mopeds to customers in Germany and e-bikes to customers in the UK.
More recently, the company has designed, built and deployed its newest product “ZOLAR” – another first globally wireless, solar-generated charging station for micro mobility. This product has a high demand in its cities of operation, where city officials want to move towards station based parking for e-scooters. The launch of ZOLAR in 2023 is a definitive move to embedding ZEUS in all cities across Germany and beyond.
The plans for 2024 are to continue to invest in its fleet and grow to more than 12,000, expanding to over 80 locations and growing its customer base to over 600,000. The company has the pipeline of locations ready to launch and has committed to the rollout of ZOLAR in many of these markets to complement its services.
The company expects to double revenue in 2024 to ~€11m and report full year EBITDA profitability.
Can you tell us about the fundraise and your offer to investors?
ZEUS has always committed to EIIS funding as part of its growth strategy. The Irish Government’s EIIS commitment is unique in Europe and offers Irish Investors opportunities to invest in Irish Indigenous companies that create employment in local communities. ZEUS has raised €6m under EIIS to date and intends to raise up to €15m over its life, subject to rules and legislation.
This year, ZEUS is offering investors a unique opportunity to invest in the business by way of Preference Shares. The Preference Shares offer more certainty of the return and doesn’t rely on market valuations.
The Preference Share has a fixed “coupon” that is paid after the 4 years of EIIS investment. Investors will get a return of €1.50 for every €1 invested, a leading return in the market. The eligibility for EIIS tax relief further bolsters this return and overall offers investors a 22% IRR on investments.
Do you have any advice for start-ups looking to fundraise?
Starting a business is hard, but funding a business is even harder. In my personal experience, traditional forms of finance such as banks offer no support to new businesses. They adopt traditional forms of assessment which include historic trading. Any new business knows of course that a start-up cannot have historic trends and my advice would be – don’t waste your valuable time with banks.
ZEUS raised its first funding through Micro Finance Ireland, who looked more at the business, the promoter and the business potential. These funds gave the kick start to ZEUS that was needed. In addition, we visited the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) who provided both a feasibility study grant and an employment grant to the business. Again, these supported our ability to build our product and get it to market.
Private funding from individuals is likely the best form of funding. Most of ZEUS’ equity is from private individuals and mostly through EIIS. Depending on the business, VC’s and Private Equity companies might offer support but many of them operate in the “proven” space first and foremost, therefore it can be difficult through this source if you have not seen proven revenues.
What changes would you like to see with EIIS Legislation?
My biggest concern is that changes to EIIS legislation will dilute the strength of this funding. The government need to realise that this funding powers innovation in Ireland, employment and significant contributions back to the exchequer.
I would like to see the current EIIS structure remain unchanged. The 40% tax relief is fair and generous. The tenure allows businesses to get to the next level. And the thresholds are suitable enough for people to take the necessary risks without it being too high.
In my view, it’s simple – EIIS is not broken, so please don’t try to fix it!
Thank you to Damian for his time participating in this interview. To find out more about Zeus EIIS Fund raise please see https://zeusscooters.com/eiis-investment/