Bike-sharing services

China’s Ofo kicks off bike-sharing in Seattle as part of North American expansion

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 1:42am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 3:16pm

Ofo, mainland China’s bike-sharing services titan, has landed in the United States, rolling out an initial 1,000 bicycles on the streets of Seattle, Washington.

“Our mission is to solve the ‘last mile’ transportation problem in urban areas, and we see immense potential in the US for Ofo’s convenient, affordable and low-carbon way of travel,” company founder and chief executive Dai Wei said in a statement on Thursday.

The North American launch follows Ofo’s latest funding round last month that saw the Beijing-based company raise US$700 million from investors led by Alibaba Group Holding, Hony Capital and Citic Private Equity. New York-listed Alibaba owns The South China Morning Post.

Chinese bike-sharer Ofo lands US$700 million in new funding, led by Alibaba

“Station-free bike-sharing was Ofo’s pioneering concept that changed the nature of the sharing economy and transportation options in cities across the globe,” said Dai. “There is a need for this type of transportation solution worldwide.”

Founded in 2014, Ofo offers riders a convenient, flexible bike-sharing model that rids users of the limitations of docking stations.

Ofo’s smartphone app and so-called smart lock technology allow riders to rent and park bikes anywhere, while complying with local laws.

The global bike-sharing company, which is valued at more than US$2 billion, currently has more than 8 million bikes in more than 170 cities across seven countries.

It generates more than 25 million transactions per day, providing upwards of 3 billion rides to more than 100 million users.

Expanding into North America looks to move Ofo a step closer to its target of operating 20 million bikes in 20 countries by the end of this year.

Ofo received a permit from Seattle’s Department of Transportation to bring 1,000 bicycles to the city’s streets this month as part of a pilot operation, with the goal of serving the entire city after September by increasing the number of bikes in its fleet.

“We will be working in close coordination with government officials to ensure that Ofo becomes a valuable part of the lives of Seattle residents,” said Grace Lin, the vice-president of Ofo in the US.

Last month, Ofo announced a global partnership with mobile payment platform Ayden, which enabled customers to use one set of payment credentials to pay for rides anywhere that Ofo operates worldwide.

Users can download the Ofo app and scan the Quick Response code to unlock the bike. When the trip is completed, users will be charged US$1 for a ride of up to one hour.

As in all other cities where it operates, Ofo will have local, on-the-ground maintenance and management staff to assist with bike parking and repairs.

On the mainland Chinese market, Ofo has a 65 per cent market share to lead rival Mobike’s 35 per cent share, according to a June report from analytics firm 7Park Data.

Ofo’s recent US$700 million round is the largest known financing for a bike-sharing company, overtaking a US$600 million round by Mobike in June this year.