Ofo is a leader in station-free bikes from China. Users can get a passcode directly from the app to unlock the bike, ride wherever they’re headed and lock the bike again. Now present in China, USA, UK and Singapore, the Chinese startup has recently announced a US$700m Series E funding led by Alibaba to extend its reach to 20 countries by deploying 20 million bikes by the end of the year. But there is something beyond the will of the Chinese giant to participate in a green revolution, made possible by concepts such as station-free bikes, that aim to beat traffic jams in Chinese mega-cities.
The news of Alibaba’s investment comes only a month after Ofo’s main competitor, Mobike, announced a US$600m Series E funding from another Chinese giant: Tencent. With the market heating up in Asian cities over the past few years, the two major tech giants have decided to battle indirectly through the mobility solution as a part of their general race for investments. Data gathering, smog-free cities and profit (of course), are amongst the motivations fueling the battle of titans.
Both startups are trying to expand aggressively across Asia and the world with an average coverage of 200 cities globally for both competitors.
One of the most interesting playgrounds for these startups will be Japan. Recently, Mobike announced a partnership with the Japanese messaging app Line, which holds 71 million accounts in the archipelago. The investment from Line underlines the need for Mobike to reach a wider target in this particular market, but also a way to integrate its service and avoid relying on a single app. Mobike users in Japan will be able to access the service through the Line app, just as it is with Wechat in China.