"SETsquared provides a supportive but challenging environment to somebody starting a small business. It makes the management of the company think carefully about what they're going to do and how they're going to do it, and enables them to have that critiqued by experienced mentors."
Heddwyn Davies, CEO, Symetrica 

Fast facts

  • Start date: 2002
  • Website: www.symetrica.com
  • Market sector: security
  • Location: Southampton
  • Investment raised: ~£5 million
  • Number of employees: 30

SETsquared support

  • investor readiness
  • Investment Showcase
  • networking
  • business review panels
  • premises

Company overview

Symetrica specialises in the detection and identification of radioactive material for security applications.

What was the vision for the company and what problem were you aiming to solve? 

"Symetrica was set up to commercialise technologies developed in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southampton, and in particular specialist methods of improving the performance of radiation detectors."

Company successes

September 2004: £99,000 investment from NESTA
September 2006: set up US office in Boston
November 2006: In partnership with Smiths Detection,won $222m contract

SETsquared support

"Symetrica became involved with SETsquared in 2004, and I was initially brought in as a SETsquared mentor for them. They were looking at medical applications, but it would have taken five years to break into that market and five more to get certified."
"When I looked at alternative strategies and markets, I recommended they move into homeland security instead, then to expand later into other markets. Symetrica secured investment from NESTA on this basis, and soon afterwards I started as CEO with them."
"After I joined, we took space at SETsquared and took a more active role in the activities they organised. They provided a lot of training to help us prepare for pitching to investors, and helped us to make useful connections via the US embassy."
"We went through the process of SETsquared's business review panels with a number of external advisors, who critiqued our business plans and strategies. The panels forced us to document what we thought we were going to do, to think it through and plan it, and to have that reviewed. They helped sharpen our strategy, and made us more ready to provide what was necessary when we looked for investment."
"We pitched at the first SETsquared Investment Showcase, which resulted in an investor walking straight up to me afterwards and saying they would invest in Symetrica – which they subsequently did. The event was extremely positive, and helped raise our profile within the investment community."
"Perhaps the most important role of SETsquared was to bring in an experienced person to mentor Symetrica. Whether it was me or someone else, having an experienced person around helped the company to get into the homeland security market and to bring in funding. One of the best things about SETsquared is the depth of qualified mentors that it can bring in."
"While I had previously started and run other businesses, they were at different stages and sizes from Symetrica. The understanding that SETsquared provided of what was needed in the early stage venture funding area was valuable. I still keep in regular contact with David Bream at SETsquared, and we bounce ideas off each other.
"From the investors' point of view, SETsquared companies give them an improved, qualified set of opportunities to look at. The mentoring and other support leads to a considerably higher probability of success for SETsquared companies, compared to other similar businesses."

Future plans

"Our technology is now proven in the tough market of homeland security against some huge competitors. We will have contracts and cash coming from that sector, which will allow us to start investigating other applications, including looking again at medical."