Biking away the hassles in modern cities
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