“Anything can happen”: Ofo and Mobike investors talk about bike-rental war

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bike-rental startups

ZhenFund’s Grace Gu said that bike-rental companies will gear up this year to take a bigger share of the market, but she was skeptical on further funding rounds on these companies

On March 17, investors in both Ofo and Mobike took the stage at ChinaBang Awards 2017 to discuss the future of the bike-rental industry. Grace Gu, principal at Ofo-investor ZhenFund, and Xu Ying, Executive Partner of Mobike-investor Vertex Ventures talked about where they see the bike war heading.

“We cannot say if there will be a merger between these bike-sharing companies, ” Xu Ying said. “But in this bike sharing craziness, anything can happen.”

Gu said that bike-rental companies will gear up this year to take a bigger share of the market, but was skeptical on further funding rounds on these bike sharing companies, and said it might come to an end this year.

“Certainly, we’ll see even more bikes on the street this year. About the financing, because the investments have gone through to the main players to the later stage, financing might come to a conclusion this year,” Gu said.

The good news is that the bike sharing companies’ operation cost is much smaller than that of ride-hailing  companies such as Didi and Kuaidi, the famous taxi hailing competitors back in early 2015, throwing loads of money to win over the customers. Gu said that the number of bikes will increase, and the relevant bike management services will be upgraded to a higher level.

Also Read: Can Singapore handle the heat from Chinese bike-sharing startups?

So where is the niche market for the sparked bike-rental market?

Both investors agreed that there is still a potential market for this bike-rental red ocean.

“I believe bike sharing companies will need some strategy to bring in the new group of users who never used the shared bicycle before. It is also very worth looking forward to these companies expanding to other cities,” Gu remarked.

“What we consider now is not about how many kilometers people ride these bikes, but the new market of small children and old people to use these bikes,” Xu Ying said. “In this case, everyone has a certain competitive strategy. You can expand to the lower tier cities, or expand to the cities abroad, so the potential market is very, very large.”

How did these investors decide to invest in Mobike and Ofo in the first place?

Vertex Ventures, the lead investor Mobike’s series B+, has since invested in orange bike’s series C and a US$215 million sized series D round, lead by Tencent and Warburg Pincus in January 4 this year.

“Mobike started out from Shanghai, but the breakout period of Mobike is in Beijing. The reason why we were interested in this Shanghai-based startup was that we were also concerned about the travel duration time, not just concerned about bike sharing model,” Xu Ying said.

Also Read: Are subsidies the key to occupying the bike-sharing market in China?

The Vertex Ventures briefly mentioned the possibility of Mobike’s bike-sharing model to be applied to an electric bikes or scooters.

“We have some electric bikes, including some scooters and other hardware, and we wanted to talk and see how the Mobike can be combined with them to provide a good solution. So we made the investment in the Mobike,” Xiang Feng said. “I remember that time Ofo mainly focussed on the campus, so we considered it more appropriate to invest in Mobike, since they started from the cities.”

ZhenFund, the well-known early stage investor in China has invested in Ofo, but has also invested in Bluegogo (小蓝单车, meaning ‘a small blue bike’). The speculations were that these two companies could compete against each other under the same investor. Grace remarked that the market will decide the winner.

“For any one of the entrepreneurs, you have to face the market competition. And as we invested in their early stage, it is difficult to tell which company will last to be part of our family,” Gu said.

Founded in April 2014, Ofo has received its latest funding of a US$450 million series D round from DST Global.

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