Now that the hot weather is over it is time to start worrying about being frozen and flooded. Excuse the cynicism, but given our government’s recent record of response to crises of an environmental nature it seems we would do well to take as much personal responsibility as we can.
In recent years flooding has started to affect more and more of us; it seems no part of the UK is immune to the risk, and in fact all it takes is a foot or so of rainfall before one’s property starts to become damaged. So forget the pictures you see on the news of forlorn Surrey businessmen sat cross-legged on the roofs of their cars, or canoeing down the high street in search of aid, here are the facts: 5 million people in over 2m homes are at risk, with 1.6m declared high risk. 10,000 sq. km of the country is affected by river flooding alone, and insurers will only provide cover if they estimate the risk of flooding to be less than once every 75 years.
Tellingly, although the UK spends around £800m per year on flood and coastal defences, for every £1 spent on defence, £7 is spent on restoration. In other words, splashing out (forgive the pun) on decent defence equipment represents most people’s best chance of minimising expensive damage to their properties. News has reached Haggerston Times of an exciting new product called Hydroguard, plus an opportunity to invest in said product via Indiegogo: there may even be a rubber duck in it for you!
On Friday I spoke to founder Hannes Floto, a German businessman who has settled in the North East of England. Hannes helped bring German supermarket chain LIDL to British shores over 15 years ago as Commercial Director, but has since embarked on a globe-trotting career as an entrepreneur and investor in start-ups, from a German spice Company in Baltimore, USA, to a cash and carry business, Makro, in Athens Greece. Hannes has the dubious distinction of having been flooded in the US, Greece, and the UK, the latter causing such serious damage that he decided it was time to find a proper solution to the problem.
He enlisted the help of design engineer Robin Harris, whom he had met in relation to a separate project, and explained what he wanted to do; a few months later, Hydroguard was born. Like so many clever inventions, it’s simple, easy to use, and solves a problem, namely that most people’s choice for blockading their doors come the rainy season, sandbags, are unpleasant hulking items that cannot be re-used effectively, and are difficult to get hold of when you need them the most.
Hydroguard uses sliding technology to fix itself to doorframes of any size, and once in place, it’s practically impermeable. It works with wooden or UPVC doors, it’s small and easy to store, and it’s not expensive, retailing at net £250. Tests prove that the slides as well as the seals are “waterproof” and Hydroguard is set to be kite marked shortly. Hannes believes the product has significant potential because, he explains, using Hydroguard in preference to a sandbag is a no brainer; the only reason that a product such as this has not been on the market for some time is that until now nobody has been able to deliver a competent enough design.
So far the team has invested around £50k into the design and development of the product, and now they are looking to raise the same again via their Indiegogo campaign. Robin’s business partner James Browne is the brains behind the fundraising, which is rewards based. From rubber ducks, to umbrella’s, to the product itself at a special “Indiegogo” price, it’s a highly professional looking campaign which runs until October 17th and has begun promisingly. Look at this way. If everyone in danger of being flooded in the UK bought a rubber duck and flood guide from Hydroguard, the team would have £30m to play with!
The main advantage that a Hydroguard has over its competitors is its “one size fits all” design, which not only makes it easy to store but also easy to stock. Retail outlets are more likely to choose to sell Hydroguard rather than a range of different sized solutions, and customers more likely to buy them. Hannes admits the product is not simple to manufacture, hence the need to raise funds, but the demand is there. Not only can you see it catching on in towns and villages, where it quickly becomes socially unacceptable not to own one, but it will also appeal to housing associations, and electricity and water companies who are obliged to pay for any damage caused by burst water mains and other incidents.
The product is highly scalable now that the design is perfected; if Hydroguard does indeed succeed in becoming a byword for effective flood prevention, there is scope for a whole range of add on products. The team hope to begin by producing 1,000 units, expect to sell many more, and are already marketing the product overseas. At this stage there is no obvious reason why the product could not begin to monopolise the market, as there are so few obvious alternatives. Hydroguard is a good idea and so far the business plan has been well executed. Interestingly, perhaps, for some, the Company are EIS and SEIS eligible too.
At the end of my conversation with Hannes, who has one son at Newcastle University and 2 younger daughters, plus one Labrador whose ancestry can almost be traced back to the Mayflower, he claims, he asks me to point out that the dog pictured is not said Labrador. “This one is a puppy”, he explains, “the Hydroguard also makes a great puppy guard!” There you have it. I’ll wager, before many more rainy seasons have passed, that a rather large number of country dwelling dog owning families will also be in possession of a Hydroguard.