Time and again, Israeli industrial designer Rafi Gabbay was told his idea for a lightweight foldable hotplate was impossible.

Now that 5,000 HotMat units have been sold in Israel and the product is flying off store shelves in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany since March – with more soon shipping out to Panama and possibly Mexico – he feels vindicated in pursuing the project against all odds.

HotMat uses the mineral mica to spread heat evenly and efficiently inside four aluminum heating elements housed in silicon, divided into two “warm” hobs and two “hot” hobs.

Gabbay started the parent company, Rolla RWT, in Jerusalem in 2009 using a modest seed investment from a group led by high-tech entrepreneur Yossi Tsuria. His employer, Morel – Israel’s only maker of hi-fi speakers – gave him time to work with an international team of advisers and engineers to develop his unique product.

Taking up three times less storage space than standard metal warming trays, the product originally was marketed to Israelis as a fit-in-the-drawer alternative to the heavy, cumbersome plata for warming food on Shabbat. Judaica stores overseas were soon sending orders too.

“The Jewish market was a good beta market to learn how to improve our production and lower the price,” Gabbay tells ISRAEL21c.

The next-gen HotMat replaces some of the silicon with less expensive plastic and is now positioned as a space-saving solution for caterers, travelers and party hosts.

HotMat folds easily to fit inside a drawer or suitcase. Photo: courtesy
HotMat folds easily to fit inside a drawer or suitcase. Photo: courtesy

While testing ways to run HotMat on a battery, energy pack or car charger, Gabbay is seeking investors to help break into the broader backpacking and camping crowd.

“We’re working on a two-dish product for the RV, home-garden and outdoor market as another solution for heating foods easily,” he says. “It’s going to be extraordinarily lightweight and small. A few distributors in the US have already approached us about this version.

“We also have additional products planned for heating food and drink. Our orientation is going more and more to outdoor because there is lots of room for innovation there.”

Internationally patented and safety-certified by the German TUV SUD laboratory and the Standards Institution of Israel, HotMat is manufactured in China and comes in green and blue.

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