Mo­bike eye­ing Wash­ing­ton, DC

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By RUINAN ZHANG in New York and MA SI in Bei­jing

Bike-shar­ing gi­ant Mo­bike Tech­nol­ogy Ltd, which han­dles 25 mil­lion rides a day in China, looks to be pre­par­ing to put rid­ers on its bikes in the US cap­i­tal, based on its hir­ing plans in the area.

One of the jobs Mo­bike posted on pro­fes­sional net­work­ing site LinkedIn is for an op­er­a­tions man­ager, based in Wash­ing­ton, who would need to get to know “the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment” and “be the main point of con­tact for the re­gional gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and trans­port au­thor­i­ties”, ac­cord­ing to The Wall Street Jour­nal.

“We un­der­stand there has been mar­ket spec­u­la­tion about Mo­bike’s growth plans,” Xue Huang, Mo­bike’s head of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, said in an email re­ply with­out con­firm­ing the com­pany’s plans. “Be­fore we en­ter any new city, we in­vest con­sid­er­able time en­gag­ing with lo­cal reg­u­la­tors and com­mu­ni­ties to un­der­stand how our smart bike so­lu­tion can best help ad­dress lo­cal mar­ket needs.”

In Wash­ing­ton, Mo­bike would face com­pe­ti­tion from Cap­i­tal Bike­share, a lo­cal com­pany that op­er­ates more than 3,700 bikes at 440 sta­tions across five ju­ris­dic­tions around metropoli­tan Wash­ing­ton.

Mo­bike’s main Chi­nese ri­val, Ofo Inc, is also look­ing at start­ing op­er­a­tions in the United States. Co-founder Yu Xin said the com­pany is con­duct­ing a trial, “but we will also move into of­fi­cial op­er­a­tion soon in sev­eral cities.’’ Ofo has said a trial started in Cal­i­for­nia in March.

Ofo op­er­ates 6.5 mil­lion bikes in more than 150 cities

in five coun­tries. It has raised more than $700 mil­lion in its lat­est fund­ing round from in­vestors in­clud­ing Alibaba Group Hold­ing to bring its yel­low bikes to 20 mil­lion in 200 cities glob­ally by year’s end.

In Sin­ga­pore, the first over­seas des­ti­na­tion it en­tered, in Fe­bru­ary, Ofo picked up more than 100,000 cus­tomers in just 100 days. It now pro­cesses more than 20,000 trips ev­ery day in­volv­ing over 10,000 bi­cy­cles.

Mo­bike, which is backed by Ten­cent and Ap­ple sup­plier Fox­conn, among oth­ers, has raised $600 mil­lion re­cently to ex­pand its busi­ness out­side of China.

It says it has 5 mil­lion bikes in China, pro­cess­ing as many as 25 mil­lion trips on peak days, and more than 100 mil­lion reg­is­tered users. It op­er­ates in 130 cities across coun­tries that in­clude Ja­pan, Sin­ga­pore and the United King­dom, and aims to in­crease that num­ber to 200 by the end of the year, mainly by ex­pand­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Both Mo­bike and Ofo of­fer bike-shar­ing that al­lows ur­ban res­i­dents to lock and un­lock bikes any­where, with­out a dock­ing sta­tion, via a smart­phone app.

But reg­u­la­tions have been a chal­lenge for dockless bike­shar­ing com­pa­nies in the US. When Chi­nese startup Blue­gogo In­ter­na­tional Inc tried to ex­pand into San Fran­cisco in Jan­uary, it met stiff re­sis­tance from lo­cal of­fi­cials. It al­tered its plans and de­cided to use pri­vate park­ing spa­ces in­stead of pub­lic bike racks for its bikes.

Other cities like New York al­ready have agree­ments with dock-based bike shar­ing pro­grams such as Citi Bike.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port from re­search firm Roland Berger last year, bike shar­ing has be­come a global busi­ness, with about 1,000 op­er­a­tions world­wide. The in­dus­try is ex­pected to be worth as much as $5.9 bil­lion by 2020, the re­port said.

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