The stabilisers are off as anti-bike theft entrepreneur wins business contest

Cyclehoop, which provides a unique solution to bike theft, is the winner of the South East heat of The Pitch 2009, a search for the UK’s best young companies organised by in association with Yell.
The competition features some of the biggest names in British business as judges including, on the panel at the South East heat, one of the most influential female entrepreneurs of the last decade, Karen Darby, founder of energy price comparison website SimplySwitch, sold in 2006 for £22m to the Daily Mail. Darby has recently set up social enterprise Call Britannia.
Anthony Lau, founder of Beckenham, Kent-based company Cyclehoop, will now compete in a star-studded final alongside five other top UK small business owners for the chance to win a recession-busting £50,000 prize package including one-on-one mentoring from ex-Dragons’ Den panellist and serial entrepreneur Doug Richard.
Architecture graduate Lau has created a simple yet stylish steel hoop which can be secured to existing street furniture. The system gives cyclists the assurance that thieves aren’t able to pull a fast one and provides local authorities with a cost effective cycle parking solution.
Although the business is less than 18 months old, Cyclehoop’s products are being used in a number of UK cities. As Lau pitched to the judges, his invention was being viewed in another part of London by the city’s mayor Boris Johnson.
The entrepreneur’s inspiration for his product came after his bicycle was stolen despite being locked to a signpost. Design competition Reinventing the Bike Shed gave him the incentive to look into ways to combat the issue. He eventually won the competition with his final design for Cyclehoop.
Joining Darby in selecting Lau as the winner at the event held at eOffice in central London were Bill Morrow, co-founder of Angels Den, a network which connects entrepreneurs with investors; SimoneBrummelhuis, lfounder of online business magazine The Next Women and Simon Gorman  head of micro markets at software company and event sponsorSage.
Also involved in the Government-backed contest and judging at the grand final are Doug Richard and winner of the first series of The Apprentice Tim Campbell.
Anthony Lau, comments: “To be selected as the winner out of all of the businesses that applied from the South East is extremely humbling.
“Securing the £50,000 prize would go a long way to helping me grow my business. I’ve been told that some very well known business people will be attending the final, so I’ll need all of the time between now and November to make sure I’m absolutely ready to impress!”
London was the last of five cities holding regional heats as part of The Pitch 2009. Other events have taken place in Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham.
Established in 2008, The Pitch is a showcase event for entrepreneurs running UK businesses less than three years old, and employing up to 20 members of staff. As well as being backed by the  Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, partners include Business Link, Make Your Mark, National Federation of Enterprise Agencies and Barclays Wealth.
Videos of the South East event will be available shortly on The runners-up could still make it to the final as a wildcard entry by receiving the most votes from visitors to the website.
The other contestants taking part in The Pitch South East were:

  • Paul Hewitt, Primo Smoothie – healthy choice smoothies for schools
  • Richard Davis, – the world’s only live and on demand online gym
  • Jenny Twig, Lily Pins – hairdressing service for care homes
  • Oliver Brooks, Completely Novel – self-publishing, print-on-demand community website described as ‘Myspace for novelists’,
  • Anna Bance, Girl Meets Dress – designer dress hire service described as ‘Lovefilm crossed with Net-a-Porter’.

At each of the five regional heats, six entrepreneurs had four minutes to present their business and outline why they deserved a place in the final. Each pitch was followed by questions from the panel with contestants judged on their innovation, understanding of their target market, engagement with customers and financial management.