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Start-ups

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said to plot China comeback with ‘shared kitchen’ business

  • The Uber co-founder is partnering with Zhang Yanqi, former COO at bicycle-sharing firm Ofo, sources say
  • The two have worked on the project for a couple of months, the people say
PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 February, 2019, 11:33am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 February, 2019, 1:32pm

Former Uber Technologies chief executive Travis Kalanick may be considering plans to bring shared kitchens to China, according to people familiar with the matter.

Kalanick plans to bring Los Angeles-based CloudKitchens to China to provide food and beverage businesses with real-estate, facilities management, technology and marketing services, the people said, asking not to be named as the plans are not finalised and may still change.

The Uber co-founder is partnering with Zhang Yanqi, the former chief operating officer at bicycle-sharing firm Ofo, and the two have started to work on the project for a couple of months, the people said. If launched in China, it would mark another attempt by Kalanick to crack the world’s second-biggest economy after Uber bowed out of the country in 2016.

CloudKitchens and Kalanick did not reply to an emailed request for comment. Messages sent to Zhang’s LinkedIn account went unanswered.

Often dubbed the “kitchen version of WeWork”, CloudKitchens typically takes over “distressed” real-estate space, equips it with kitchen facilities and rents them out to food and beverage businesses. For restaurant owners, it is a lower-cost way of starting up delivery-only services or expanding to a new location.

Meal delivery is next battleground for China’s tech giants

Kalanick last year invested US$150 million for a controlling stake in City Storage Systems, the holding company of CloudKitchens, through his 10100 investment fund. He set up the fund after stepping down at Uber.

Zhang was the regional general manager of Uber in northern and western China between June 2014 and November 2016 before he joined Ofo, according to his LinkedIn account. He was in charge of Ofo’s international expansion before stepping down as chief operating officer of the bicycle-sharing firm and eventually leaving the company.

As with ride hailing, CloudKitchens will have to contend with local competitors in China such as Beijing-based Panda Selected and Shanghai-based Jike Alliance. The idea of shared kitchens became popular in China around 2016 when the concept of sharing economy was gaining momentum, with billions of dollars of venture capital pouring into ideas from sharing bicycles to power banks.

Last March, Kalanick said in a tweet that the theme of his 10100 fund will be about “large-scale job creation, with investments in real estate, e-commerce, and emerging innovation in China and India”.