Bik­ing away the has­sles in modern cities

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS HK -

Fork­ing out 299 yuan ($43) as a de­posit on the com­pany’s smart­phone app, a user can sim­ply scan the QR code on the bike to un­lock the ve­hi­cle, and the app will be able to track the GPS-en­abled bike and cal­cu­late the fare. Mo­bike now charges users 1 yuan each for a 30-minute ride.

The app shows where a user can pick up a bike, which is more likely to be found in ma­jor com­mer­cial ar­eas, sub­way sta­tions and res­i­den­tial ar­eas, and users can park the ve­hi­cle at desti- na­tions of their choice.

Cur­rently, Mo­bike opera t e s i n S h a n g h a i , B e ij i n g , Guangzhou, Shen­zhen, Chengdu and Ningbo. As each city has its own char­ac­ter­is­tics, Mo­bike re­lies heav­ily on its data to op­ti­mize ser­vices in dif­fer­ent set­tings.

Fo r i n s t a n c e , g i v e n t h e un­der­sup­ply of ex­ist­ing bikepark­ing ar­eas in Shen­zhen, Mo­bike su­per vises its park sites closely based on real-time data to avoid an over­flow of parked bikes in the area, says Teng Fei, gen­eral man­ager of Mo­bike in Shen­zhen.

Hu Wei­wei, co-founder of Mo­bike and a vet­eran jour­nal­ist in the au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try, be­lieves that bi­cy­cles can be the cure of some of the ur­ban traf­fic headaches.

Well-in­volved in the au­to­mo­bile in­dustr y, a visit to an in­ter­na­tional auto show abroad in 2014 left Hu pon­der­ing about how cars have changed the face of cities for the bet­ter or worse.

“While the pop­u­lar­iza­tion of cars has ben­e­fited ur­ban de­vel­op­ment, it has also brought about ‘ur­ban dis­eases’ to cities,” Hu tells China Daily.

“This ma­ture car in­dus­try with a his­tory of a cen­tury seemed to have failed to keep up with the de­vel­op­ment of tech­nolog y, as well as the in­creas­ingly per­son­al­ized de­mand from con­sumers.”

Hu thought of bi­cy­cles — a ve­hi­cle she loves and most Chi­nese peo­ple have learned to use — as the most flex­i­ble, eco­log­i­cal means of trans­porta­tion.

She de­cided to leave her long-time ca­reer in au­to­mo­biles, and assem­bled a team of tal­ents from a wide range of in­dus­try back­grounds — from au­to­mo­bile and bi­cy­cle, to telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­ter­net, to turn her idea into re­al­ity.

Like many tech star­tups that man­age to grow with­out mak­ing money, Mo­bike has ad­mit­ted that it has yet to fig­ure out a clear busi­ness model that can turn the com­pany into a prof­itable busi­ness. But, that does not keep in­vestor’s in­ter­est away.

In its most re­cent round, Mo­bike raised $100 mil­lion in a se­ries-C fund­ing ex­er­cise in­volv­ing heavy­weight in­vestors such as Se­quoia Cap­i­tal and main­land in­ter­net gi­ant Ten­cent Hold­ings.

Mo­bike is among a hand­ful of bike-sharing star­tups that have man­aged to se­cure big sums of in­vest­ment in the past few months. Ofo — an­other Beijing-based, bike-hir­ing startup — re­ceived $130 mil­lion in se­ries-C fund­ing, also in early Oc­to­ber, from in­vestors that in­cluded car-hail­ing com­pany Didi Chux­ing.

“Bike-sharing is an un­touched mar­ket with huge de­mand, and that’s why in­vestors are scram­bling to seize the op­por­tu­nity,” says Cao Yang, head of Au­to­mo­bile Research Cen­ter at mar­ket­ing research firm iRe­search.

She says the amount of bike­shar­ing users of these star­tups can be even big­ger than some of the car-sharing com­pa­nies, al­though their trans­ac­tion vol­ume is lag­ging be­hind.

With fre­quent and size­able fund­ing rounds in place, Yang en­vis­ages that the play­ers will con­tinue to burn money to grab mar­ket share.

This ma­ture car in­dus­try with a his­tory of a cen­tury seemed to have failed to keep up with the de­vel­op­ment of tech­nol­ogy, as well as the in­creas­ingly per­son­al­ized de­mand from con­sumers.”

Chai Hua con­trib­uted to the story.

Hu Wei­wei, co-founder of Mo­bike

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