There’s a battle heading our way, Do you know what it is? No, it’s not Android and IOS or Dell and Lenovo. This battle is due to the latest wrinkle in urban bike-sharing-dockless bike sharing. The Founders and VCs are seeing some extra dollars landing in their hands. “Dockless bike sharing is something that people worry about until they realize it’s a benefit” to society, says atomico cofounder Mattias Ljungman, who calls the ability to leave one’s bicycle where a trip ends “the real revolution here.” Docking stations are “very complicated,” he says. “Not only do riders need to know where to park their bikes, but sometimes the stations are full. It’s a pain.”
A big bet has been placed on Ofo. The Beijing based dockless bike-share company has raised around $580 million from Vcs at a post-money evaluation of north of $1 billion. The China-based investors are looking to add more value/money on the 3 year old company given its current momentum. 10 million connected bikes are running on the streets of china as you read this. Astonishing 10 million rides per day are taken, compared with the roughly 10 million rides per year that London’s public bike-sharing service powers.
The story is much the same for 16-month-old, Shanghai-based Mobile, which also claims to have more than a million bikes in its fleet and has raised $410 million from investors at a valuation that the WSJ reports is north of $1 billion. Another Beijing-based bike-share company, Bluegogo, is drafting behind both. Founded a mere six months ago, it has already raised at least $65 million from investors.
Friends? Not so much.
New York-based Social Bicycles, or SoBi, which says it was first in producing a dockless bike that features a trackable GPS system and an integrated lock that allows it to be parked at any bike rack in a city. O’Sullivan has been watching dockless bike sharing as closely as anyone. t
SoBi launched in 2010 by founder Ryan Rzepecki after serving 17 month as project manager at the New York Department of Transportation. He experienced the bike-sharing idea first hand at the company. New York is home to the largest bike-share program in the U.S.
Among them were “ensuring the bikes would be inspected and maintained, that their docking stations would be kept clean, that bikes would be evenly distributed throughout the city, and that there was data sharing,” says Rzepecki’s then-boss, former New York DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who now advises mayors on urban planning. “It was pretty basic stuff” that had New Yorkers’ best-interest in mind, she adds. “Rogue bike systems,” she complains, don’t necessarily have the same priorities.
“These new companies seem to be using [the bikes] more like marketing vehicles and using the streets for their private gain,” Sadik-Khan says of Ofo and Mobike, which are giving citydwellers more freedom to zip around congested cities like Shanghai, but attracting bad press in the process around bike-strewn pedestrian walkways and bikes piled sky high. “You can create dangerous situations by inviting this tsunami of bikes that could wind up anywhere and everywhere.”
Rzepecki believes they’ve been thoughtful in their approach than SoBi. Most importantly, he says, SoBi has “entered into a partnership with every city where we’re operating,” he says. “Having been on the other side, we understood the importance of being good partners.” The demand for bike sharing apps are reaching new highs, Uber for bike’s is now a thing. Get the app be a part of this cat fight.
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