Ruth Mitchell

ScratchBikes - Jack Payne tells Bdaily how he’s helping Newcastle get on a two wheels

If you have been in and around Newcastle city centre recently, you may have noticed the racks of green bikes which have begun to appear. ScratchBikes was borne out of a university project, and has developed into a city-wide bike sharing scheme helping the people of Newcastle get on two wheels.

Towards the end of his Civil Engineering degree in 2009, Jack Payne was inspired by a trip to Barcelona. He and friend Robert Grisdale needed to find an idea for a business module, and an adaption of the city’s bike hire scheme seemed like a perfect fit.

“We did some research and found that there had been some small unsuccessful schemes in the UK, so we decided to write a business plan for a scheme aimed at students,” says Jack.

“We ended up doing quite well in the module and were encouraged to enter the Newcastle University business awards, and when we ended up winning the prize money, we started thinking about setting the business up for real.”

The pair moved in with Jack’s sister and set about writing business plans and attending courses, whilst also searching for funding. After realising the expense which would come with a scheme similar to the one Jack had seen abroad, the pair came up with the idea of renting bikes through mobile phones.

“This meant we could massively bring down costs, and after winning funding from Shell, Santander and Newcastle University, as well as successfully applying for Business Link match funding we were finally able to realise our idea,” he continues.

It took seven months for the bikes to arrive, but soon after the racks were installed NE1 the business district improvement company noticed what they were doing and decided to get involved.

“They thought it was a good idea for the city, and helped us get more racks throughout the city, not just on the University campuses,” continues Jack.

“Their support has proved invaluable, as it has helped us develop into more than just a student scheme.”

Despite witnessing the overwhelming success of ScratchBikes in Newcastle over the past 18 months, Jack and Robert believe it is not quite the right time for them to scale up the scheme. However, their engineering ingenuity has come into play, and they are now developing a special locking system for similar schemes.

“We were lucky enough to get £150,000 of venture capital funding from Rivers Capital, who liked the idea of the lock system and decided it was invest.

“It was an amazing moment for us as the fact that they believed in our idea made it all the more real, and was actually worth something!”

The patent has been approved for the retrofit locking system, and as their product offering goes from strength to strength, they are needless to say, no longer sleeping on the couch at Jack’s sisters house.

“600 members have now signed up to the scheme, and we are now in the process of fitting racks in Heaton, Sandyford and Gosforth,” Jack concludes. “And hopefully this will encourage even more people in Newcastle to get on a bike.”

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