Start-up story: Steamhaus

Start-up story: Steamhaus

Steamhaus is a Manchester business proud to have its head very firmly in the clouds. A cloud computing consultancy, their job is to make 'the cloud' simple for everyone else. Daniel and Dennis Keighron-Foster spoke to BQ about their journey to getting up and running.

What is it the company does?
Steamhaus is cloud consultancy based in Manchester. We work with digital and creative businesses across the North West to source, design, build, maintain and manage their cloud setup. Whether they’re an online retailer, app developer or high traffic website, we help brands and agencies understand their applications and code better.

What inspired you to start-up?
Until quite recently, trying to define the cloud still threw up a lot of confusion and mixed messaging as businesses tried to navigate the solutions on offer. Historically, you might go straight to a traditional hosting company for help, but the industry has now evolved. Companies want a tailored, personalised approach - not a cookie cutter solution.

Steamhaus was born to fill a technical void and guide companies to the best solution – freeing them up to get on with growing their business. On top of more than 50 years’ combined technical expertise, we offer brilliant customer service. Whether it’s designing and building the perfect environment for your site, or simply providing peace of mind on a technical query, we sort it.
How did you go about starting up, did you apply for funding or did you self-fund the project?
My partner and I were lucky enough to be in a position to invest £500,000 when we launched. It’s very important to us that everyone sees the businesses as theirs however, which is why we’ve given all of our staff significant equity.

Where do you get advice?
Steamhaus is a close-knit team with everyone working in collaboration – nothing rests on one person’s shoulders. That’s a common theme in the wider community too. Manchester is a very genuine and open city and I’ll have regular catch-ups with other MDs and industry people to chat through any sticking points that we might be facing – there’s never any fear that someone’s digging or just wants to be nosey! I’m also part of a business support group that meets every six weeks for collaborative coaching.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?
We invested a lot of time getting the right team in place, finding our perfect office, perfecting the branding and so on – as well as bringing new clients on board! Getting all of those different components together at the same time is an art!

What is your next big target?
We’ve just launched a new hosting platform, SteamCloud, for businesses that need high availability without the full feature-set and instant scalability of large public cloud providers. It’s something we’ve had in the pipeline so we’re really excited that it’s now out there. We’ll continue to roll this out throughout the year.

What is the best and worst thing about being a start-up?
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that most start-ups are consumed by growth! To make it a success, we have to grow to a certain size, but at the same time we don’t want to see a massive boom where we’ve suddenly got 100 people spread out over three floors. Experiencing that type of growth in a short space of time causes staff to become stressed and burnt out which impacts standards and the wider ethos of the company. Trying to manage that growth will always be a challenge.

What makes this idea different?
Steamhaus offers a fresh alternative in an industry that hasn’t been shaken up for a while. We’re different because we offer a ‘provider-agnostic’ model which means we’re not bound to one supplier or solution. We can lay all the options out on the table and make sure we select the right one for the customer – whether that’s a local datacentre or a large public cloud provider.

Who would be your dream customer?
We’re very keen to partner with digital agencies. We ‘get’ them and have all the services they need to help them concentrate on what they do, rather than worrying about hosting. Through these agencies the ‘dream’ is to get to work with some big brands on exciting large-scale projects. Something we’re very much working towards.