With vaccine uptake allowing more and more businesses to think seriously about reopening their offices, cleanliness is increasingly top-of-mind for employers and employees alike.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Kingston-grown tech company Mero Technologies turned into a “full cleanliness platform.” Operating in commercial buildings, hospitals, airports and other facilities, Mero provides peel-and-stick sensors that collect data for commercial cleaners, showing how much stock is left for essential items such as paper towels, toilet paper and soap – reducing the need for workers to physically check the areas.
A spotless idea
Mero was officially launched in 2019 by Nathan Mah and Cole MacDonald. The two met at Queen’s University in Kingston before both went on to work for property management organizations.
Mah watched commercial cleaners use pen-and-paper logs to track their work, which he would then enter into an Excel spreadsheet. Later, the company would use this spreadsheet to negotiate multimillion-dollar cleaning tenders.
“Their data source was really a piece of paper that had some chicken scratch on it,” Mah says.
Mah and MacDonald joined forces to automate the data-collection process, building a proof of concept with support from Queen’s.
By 2018, Mero had received $125,000 from an angel investor to begin manufacturing. The company then leveraged that funding to secure a pre-seed financing round of $750,000.
Kingston comes together
Despite these early successes, the first year was still challenging, Mah says, “picking up the phone, cold calling and finding the right market opportunity amongst the local community.”
But before long, Mero had secured its first clients.
“Everyone was getting together, in order to see Queen’s kids (move) to a bigger place,” he says.
Mero’s first major client was the City of Kingston, hiring the company to put its sensors in bus terminal washrooms, and at the Confederation Basin Marina. A local ServiceMaster franchise owner was also an early customer.
“We reminded him of his kids,” Mah says of the franchisee. “I think that sort of mentality just exemplifies the close knit community of Kingston.”
Today, Mero is headquartered in Toronto, to be closer to its target market of large office buildings. Despite this, Mah says, Mero’s connection to Kingston remains strong, with much of the company’s intellectual property and software development happening in the eastern Ontario city.
A strong foundation
Mero’s products are currently in about 100 buildings including Toronto Pearson Airport and are being trialled in England’s Gatwick Airport.
“We’re starting to grow really rapidly, because of the need for cleaning, hygiene and efficiency,” Mah says. “We have over 12,000 of our sensors deployed out into the field.”
Mero was also able to close a $2 million funding round this year, allowing it to kickstart its U.S. expansion plans. Wading through COVID-19, Mero used part of its $750,000 seed funding for a bit of capital runway, before launching a whole new product in May 2020 dubbed “Comfort.”
The product gives building tenants access to data about when a washroom was last cleaned, whether or not it has critical supplies such as soap, and how many people are currently in that washroom. As well as giving the tenant peace of mind, it also helps building owners easily adjust the schedules of cleaning staff.
“That has allowed us to more than quadruple our growth since the start of the pandemic,” Mah says about Comfort. “I'm really proud of the team for releasing a product that quickly, so soon after such a traumatic impact of the pandemic.”
To prepare for the future of work, Mero will be partnering with U.S.-based pathogen-detecting monitor, Poppy, and CleanSlate UV, a Kingston company that reduces bacteria on mobile devices.
“We're going to market together, as a unit, in order to be more unified,” Mah says. “Our solution, alongside theirs, is going to really create something amazing.”