Hannes Floto, CEO of new company HydroGuard shares with us their journey so far.
1. How did you come up with your business idea?
I have been flooded twice, firstly in Maryland, US and then in Athens, Greece with both houses being prone to flooding in heavy rain. Each time the water came so suddenly and unannounced that I was caught completely off guard. I am now living in England and although I am not in a flood risk area I have watched the water nibbling at my doorstep! Having seen the devastation that flooding has caused in this country to so many people with inadequate protection and having experienced it personally myself and fearing my wife’s wrath should it happen again, I started the project designing a flexible flood barrier for external doors.
2. What need does your product serve?
HydroGuard is the first affordable, simple to use flexible flood defence barrier, with neither pre-installation nor tools required. With its patented sliding technology, it fits any standard door size, and is dual sided – one way up for UPVC or aluminium door frames, the other way up for wooden door frames. HydroGuard is re-usable thus avoiding environmentally unfriendly one-time use products, and it can be stored in a small space in every home, thus making HydroGuard the tool of choice for homeowners and emergency services alike replacing sandbags.
3. What were the biggest challenges you faced and where do you see the main difficulties ahead?
The biggest challenge was to get HydroGuard to work and we quickly realised why we are the first to use the sliding technology that is incorporated into the product. It is very efficient and simple to use but difficult to produce. So difficult, that we had to change the design of the product considerably to make it feasible for production without losing the attributes which make HydroGuard so unique. The next big step will be to turn a technically fascinating product with simplicity at its core into a commercial success.
4. What is your advice for others wanting to set up a similar business?
Be relentless in pressing forward however take the time to review where you are and where you still have to go, never neglecting the end game which has to be carefully researched from a feasibility and consumer point of view. There will always be the pessimists telling you that it will not work. Listen to them and their reasoning and than figure out why they are wrong, or if not, figure out how you can prove them wrong.
Keep your costs low (in our case, none of the founders drew a salary for the first 2 ½ years) and go to the investment community with at least a solid proof of concept that you can demonstrate.