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Entrepreneurs get on their bikes

Wednesday 28 November 2012 5:00

A pioneering bike share company based in Newcastle is to see its concept expanded into Ireland and southern England as the firm takes what it hopes are its first steps towards global expansion.

Scratchbikes was launched two years ago by Newcastle University civil engineering graduates Rob Grisdale and Jack Payne, initially in Newcastle city centre.

The text message-operated rental scheme quickly grew, attracting sponsorship from the NE1 business improvement district organisation and later winning £140,000 in investment from the North East Angel Fund, managed by Rivers Capital Partners. By July 2011 there were 22 bike stations and 100 bikes across Newcastle.

Last year the company also developed the new BYKER rental system, which is still based on minimal on-street infrastructure, requiring little more than standard bike racks and a signpost and offering new on-bike features including GPS tracking, solar charging and anti-theft devices.

Grand Scheme is now set to deliver three BYKER™ powered schemes in early 2013, one in Ireland at the National University of Ireland in Galway and two more in the UK at Sunderland University and the Headington area of Oxford.

Rob Grisdale said: “With 2,500 members and 8,500 rentals to date, [Scrathbikes] has been a great success. This success spurred us on to develop the BYKER system, which is based on the same principle of making the bike intelligent rather than the locking infrastructure.

“Our aim is to make bike sharing easily available to everyone and with the support of UKTI we’ve now secured our first overseas clients in Ireland.”

Jayne Pickersgill, one of UK Trade & Investment’s international trade advisers, who has been working closely with the company, said: “Grand Scheme has shown that with the right support and detailed market research, it is possible to secure a major new contract overseas within a relatively short timescale. The company hopes to continue to expand internationally and develop a global presence and we hope its success will inspire others to take up the export for growth challenge.”