(L-R): David Boath, RTC North and Chris Eagleton, Geko Electronics
A Newcastle-based engineer who invented a new way of looking after his pet snakes has turned it into a global business.
Geko Electronics has built up an international following for its environmental control systems, which is used to care for exotic pets like lizards, spiders and snakes.
The company was set up by Chris Eagleton two years ago, when he combined his passion for electronics with his love of keeping pet snakes.
When not working at his day job as an engineer in the car manufacturing sector, Chris worked on inventing a thermostat that improved on what was already available to reptile owners.
The result was a climate monitoring and control system that ensures vivariums have the correct temperature and humidity for their often-sensitive inhabitants.
The company was officially formed in 2015, with Chris and his partner Adele both quitting their jobs to work on the business full time. Since opening a manufacturing plant in Killingworth, Newcastle, it has shipped close to 10,000 units around the world.
Geko’s growth has been supported by Innovate2Succeed, a programme of business support which helps SMEs capitalise on new ideas. It is delivered by RTC North and funded by Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund
David Boath, innovation specialist at RTC North, said: “Chris and Adele have shown great determination and creativity in building up a company which has disrupted a market dominated by much larger manufacturers. The new app and cloud-enabled vivarium has the potential to revolutionise the exotic animal care market on a global scale.”
The scheme has enabled the company to access grant funding and is supporting it in integrating its products with a mobile app. Geko aims to launch the app - which will allow users to control its products remotely – next spring.
Currently less than 50% of sales are UK-based, with Europe, the US and Australia making up the rest – alongside its most recently-cracked market, South Africa.
Chris Eagleton said: “The technology available to reptile owners had not moved on for years before we launched Geko. Temperature monitoring was often sloppy and inaccurate and customers had very little choice.
“Our success has come from bringing together a simple, user-friendly interface with over-engineered technology that ensures reliability and accuracy. The app will be a further development of this, while we are also exploring other potential opportunities for our products.”
Other potential opportunities could include controlling the temperature of drugs within the NHS, with early discussions underway between Geko and healthcare bosses with a view to developing a bespoke product.
In the meantime, Geko sees plenty of room for growth in the reptile and other exotic pet markets, and expects to increase its headcount from four to eight in the next 12 months accordingly.