Safe space is key for bike firm

Safe space                    is key for bike firm
Louise Murphy, Co-founder of Cyc-Lok

A Co Laois company is hoping to unlock the potential of bicycle security, writes Trish Dromey.

To do away with the rather unreliable practice of chaining a bicycle to a tree to keep it from being stolen, Laois company Cyc-Lok has developed high-tech 21st century parking lockers for bikes.

“This is the world’s first smart bike locker system — the only one that provides the cycles with a safe, secure, alarmed and monitored service which uses an app and can be rented by the hour and is booked and paid for online,” according to company director and co-founder Louise Murphy.

The four-year-old company is aiming to develop a global network of secure bicycle parking facilities.

The main strategy is to negotiate agreements which will allow Cyc-Lok to place units — each containing 12 lockers — in public places such as railway stations, shopping centres and hospitals, and rent them directly to cyclists.

The company’s second stream of revenue comes from selling units to corporate customers which use them to provide bike parking facilities for their staff.

In a world where bicycles are increasingly being seen as an environmentally-friendly form of transport, but where theft rates are growing along with ownership rates, Ms Murphy sees huge opportunities for Cyc-Lok.

“In Ireland on average 461 bikes are stolen a week, in the UK 43 are stolen every hour and in the US there are two and a half theft incidents every minute,” she said.

Winner of the National Enterprise Innovation Award in May, Cyc-lok is in the process of raising €1.5m to fund international expansion.

The company was set up in 2014 by Ms Murphy, who previously worked in pharmaceutical sales, and her husband Stephen Murphy who had a motor business.

“He’s an avid cyclist who had difficulty finding safe places to park,” she said.

Researching the market , they found that although people were buying more expensive high tech bikes, parking options had not changed with the times.

After spending a couple of years coming up with a locker design, which uses specially designed extruded aluminum and double-skinned thermoformed plastic, the couple secured a Community Design Application in Europe and also applied for a European patent. 

They sourced manufacturers around Ireland to produce the components which are assembled at their facility in Graiguecullen, Co Laois.

Investing €1.6m of their own money in the venture, the founders received support from Laois Local Enterprise Office. The company later signed up for both the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers Programme and DCU Ryan Academy accelerator programme.

Selling their first unit to a pharmaceutical company in Cork at the end of 2015, the couple immediately began exploring export opportunities.

“ In July 2016 we went to Silicon Valley and arranged 45 high level meetings with organisations including Twitter, Facebook, Google and Apple,” said Ms Murphy, explaining that California, with its high number of cyclists, is a key target for the company.

Since launching, Cyc-Lok has installed 14 units in Ireland — including some at Heuston Station and Pearse Station in Dublin and, most recently, one at the Pavilions shopping centre in Swords. It has also shipped some units to Norway.

Expecting to install an additional 50 units this year, the company says it is in negotiations with a number of corporate customers as well as organisations such as county councils, service stations, and hospitals.

The company expects to ship a large order to San Francisco at the end of the year and has also had discussions with UK shopping centre group Hammerson.

Ms Murphy said the focus for this year is in growing sales in the UK and in countries in Northern Europe.

As part of its expansion plan Cyc-Lok has recruited a new managing director who will be taking the helm in July.

“By the end of the year we expect to have doubled staff to 14 and to have a turnover of €1.5m,” she said.

Within five years the company aims to have installed 4,000 bike parking units globally and to have a turnover of €40m.

Ms Murphy believes the uniqueness of the company’s bespoke access control technology makes these ambitious targets achievable.

“We are the only one in the world offering a multi-user, pay by use, secure parking system for bikes,” she said.

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