Dr. Toby Bateson of Hammer Technologies tells us about RatMat, the greatest pest control innovation in decades.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dr. Toby Bateson: We are doing well. Thank you for asking. We have managed to make the most of this difficult situation as a family and have really enjoyed spending more time together, going on long walks and exploring local places we have never visited before. My children are aged 10 and 11, and we have been homeschooling them. They have really enjoyed it, and I think it will help them realize that education can’t be taken for granted.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Hammer Technologies.
Dr Toby Bateson: I have been working as an Emergency Doctor in Treliske hospital in Cornwall for the last 15 years. Nine years ago, my father-in-law told me that rats had damaged his sports car, and it was going to cost him $7500 for a complete rewire. He asked me to invent something to stop this from happening again because he was told that, as he lived by a river, trapping and poising the rats would not be effective as there would keep coming. I enjoy inventing things and set the world record for the world’s smallest vacuum cleaner. I immediately thought that we needed to electrify the floor in his garage so that rats and mice would not be able to walk across the surface and would be repelled in the same way that an electric fence works. It took about six years to design, develop and test the RatMat tiles, which have now been available for almost 3 years through my company Hammer Technologies. They fit together like a jigsaw and work like an electric fence to keep rats and mice away from factories, supermarkets, cars and anything else that needs protecting. You can walk over it with shoes on and drive over it with a car, which acts as a barrier to rodents but not to humans.
How does Hammer Technologies innovate?
Dr Toby Bateson: The company is founded on innovation; our product is unique. By putting customers and their problems first, innovation follows naturally. We aim to create resolution simply, effectively and efficiently. We do this by being present, engaged, open and honest. We have a small team and discuss and share information very regularly so that everybody is up to speed with where we are. The team is enthusiastic, has a wide range of experience, and believes in the RatMat, so we have a strong foundation for innovating and communicating.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Dr Toby Bateson: We have been lucky as the business has grown exponentially over the last two years. Sales have increased despite the pandemic, but they have undoubtedly suffered, mostly due to significantly prolonged leadtimes. The current shipping crisis and delays at ports have delayed stock reaching distributors in time, and we have lost some sales due to escalated shipping costs. I think that many of the orders will catch up as most of our customers have already tried many other solutions and are happy to wait a little longer for the RatMat in order to have the terrible damage they are suffering come to an end.
Undoubtedly, many companies and individuals have less money to spend on pest control; however, we are being contacted by many individuals who are having rodent problems, particular with cars, and are looking to solve it themselves by installing the system. We got the impression that during lockdowns around the world, people were online trying to find solutions to their rodent problem as we are having so many people contact us through the website.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Dr Toby Bateson: We mostly engage with our customers via email but offer them support via telephone or video call if they require it. We have been surprised by how grateful people are for a rapid and full response to their enquiry, and we frequently strike up a conversation with customers. This has been helpful in several ways; clearly, it is useful to understand our customer demographics and the ways in which people are planning to use the tiles, as well as ideas for applications we may not have thought of. We have also found it useful when introducing new improvements to the system and its components as we can ask customers who are enthusiastic and keen to try out new ideas.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Dr Toby Bateson: We were lucky enough to receive ERDF funding a few years ago to set up the products tooling, but we have not been eligible for any of the Covid grants.
Your final thoughts?
Dr Toby Bateson: COVID has created divisions in every part of our society, but adversity often leads to strength. While so many have suffered terribly from both a health and financial point of view, many families have been brought closer together and have learnt from each other. Frequently businesses have pivoted, adapted and grown. The world will never be the same again.