We caught up with Jignesh Patel, the Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder of BatFast. Jignesh is a go-getter, is extremely passionate about innovation, software, engineering and is the mega mind behind the exciting technology at Batfast. Having overseen the progress of BatFast from an idea to where it is today, Jignesh is delighted to share some insights on his remarkable journey.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I am the Chief Technology Officer at BatFast. Born and raised in Kenya to a family with Indian heritage, I naturally grew up playing “gully” cricket at home and school. In the 90s and 2000s, Kenya was geopolitically best placed to become the technology hub of Africa. I, therefore, exposed myself to the world of computers and technology. My father was a mechanic in his early days and passed on his love for all things electromechanical. All these experiences inclined me to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering at Imperial College in London – which by the end of it exposed me to software, mechanical and electrical areas of modern technology.
At BatFast, I have been the founding CTO looking after developing the team to deliver our product roadmap. I still get heavily involved in building the software, mechanical and electrical aspects of the product.
I love watching Cricket, Tennis and Formula 1. My motto in life – Stay humble and do something you are passionate about!
Tell us about the beginnings of the BatFast project and its inception?
Runish and I have known each other since high school – He did his undergraduate in Nottingham, took a year out to play cricket professionally, and returned to finish his Master’s in Entrepreneurship at UCL. I was probably selected by scarcity and luck as I was one of the few from our friends’ group to pursue a technical degree. While I was starting my first job after graduating in 2012, Runish was working on his Master’s thesis and received a message.
We spent the next few weekends going through the concept of a cricket entertainment center with an F&B offering powered by some form of augmented reality/video bowling system – the key design criteria – automation and interactive. He went on to complete his business proposal and present it to a panel of academic and industry investors. The proposal won a small startup grant and voila! BatFast was born!
What happened next with BatFast?
Working visa restrictions did not allow us to pursue the concept immediately so we spent the next few years just getting on with our lives. We did approach a few companies to buy parts of the technology and we would develop a team to integrate, trade dress, and create a commercial proposition. However, the costs were inherently prohibitive and required capital we did not have or the network to get it. The timing became right again in 2014/2015 when we had some money saved. I started using my engineering network and expertise in system design to create an early MVP for an automated bowling machine in my box room and garage in Loughborough. This was thoroughly exciting and I was learning how to code, design mechanical components, create PCB design, and develop a POC.
Moving on from the automated bowling machine, I naturally started looking into an automated scoring method. I developed a small novel POC and filed for a patent which was finally granted this year.
What is it about BatFast that makes you passionate about getting up for work everyday?
Three things, our mission, our application, and our team.
Knowing we are working on a product that is using technology to increase participation in sports globally. I love technology, I love sports, I have a small part to play in developing the end-to-end solution to fuse both. Finally, having a fantastic team right from the executive team to the interns. We have an incredibly diverse, focused, and intelligent team who have helped build BatFast and will undoubtedly help us grow to where we need to be.
What are your expectations/predictions about BatFast in the following markets in the coming 2-5 years?
The UK market
BatFast shares its mission and values with all custodians and gatekeepers of sports – increasing participation. Bringing sports to the high street as we have with Sixes and Tenpin in the competitive socializing sphere will continue to create perpetual demand. The uniqueness of the experience has always been a small hurdle in us being able to find the perfect product-market fit. You have to try it to love it. I expect other competitive socializing operators will allow us to partner with them to bring the concept to the mass.
Emerging International Markets
Emerging international markets have always been price-sensitive where a premium experience is just simply not affordable. Through necessity and continuous iteration of the product, we have to build a product that caters to all price brackets. I am confident these markets will open up more as we recover from the aftermath of COVID
Mature International Markets
Over the last few years, we have always had strong demand from international clients as a result of our work in the UK. Having developed the whole product in the UK has introduced an element of engineering excellence. This has benefited us in raising our reach and persona in international markets. Therefore, this market is waiting to explode for us.
Talk us through any BatFast project that you are proudest to work on?
There are many things to be proud of at BatFast. The team’s frugality and attitude towards developing solutions have always amazed me. Up until recently, I wrote most of the simulator code which I am incredibly proud of. However, the online stats platform we launched last year is what I am most proud of. It has truly improved our scalability as a product and has massively improved customer engagement. Getting leaderboard positions and online stats has further enhanced our repeat use and it’s something I’m really proud to be part of.
What is it about BatFast that sets it apart from its probable competitors?
We are much closer to the customer than some of our competitors. Until recently, BatFast has been an operator, designer, and prototyper. This has helped us really understand what the customer wants. We share this knowledge with all our clients to set them up for success. Additionally, we don’t get distracted by trying to do too much or adding too many features. The team is always focused on the thrill that BatFasters must experience when they walk into our lanes.
The modularity in our software and hardware platform is a key USP allowing us to create unique multi-sport experiences without having to redesign a lot of things.
As a member of the BatFast Tribe yourself, tell us about your first experience on the machine?
Runish and I used to take our first bowling machine prototype to a cricket academy in Leicester at the back of my Honda Civic,(which I still have, and interestingly, the height of the bowling machine is what it is because the machine frame had to fit at the back of the Honda with the seats down). I remember fully padding up to face the first ball and the calibration was not quite right. Short answer, I ALMOST regretted not wearing a box and survived by having a sore thigh!! Since then, I must have faced close to ten thousand balls (Runish probably double that). I am still not bored!!
What is your advice for young innovators?
- Follow your gut – it’s often right! If it is not, your passion will guide you to make it right.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – it stops you from over engineering.
- Get a mentor – someone who is an expert in the field and you will trust and listen to
- Always seek feedback on your idea from the end user.
- Don’t ignore the commercial signs of success or failure to inform your design process
What is your long term dream for BatFast?
That BatFast becomes synonymous with sports technology – whether is creating unique simulation and augmented/mixed reality experiences or providing rich feedback to players.
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BatFast. You’re In Next. For The Thrill Of The Hit.