Chinese bike-sharing startup Mobike has arrived in Washington D.C., its first U.S. city. The launch comes as myriad bike-sharing companies launch similar services across the country.
To recap, Mobike provides cities with the bikes and the technology platform, including mobile apps, allowing riders to unlock a bike by scanning a QR code with their phone. For longevity, the bikes are chainless, have puncture-proof airless tires, and are supported by an anti-rust aluminium frame.
Importantly, the bikes are “dockless,” meaning users can padlock the bicycles anywhere once they’re finished. It’s easy for Mobike to find them again due to their built-in GPS functionality.
Launched in Shanghai back in 2016, Mobike rolled out to dozens of cities across China before landing in Singapore in March, followed by the U.K., Japan, and a number of other markets. Mobike is now available in 180 cities, though well over half of those are in China.
Its arrival in the U.S. is notable, as it comes just a month after Chinese rival Ofo launched in its first U.S. city, Seattle, while U.S.-based competitor LimeBike just this week announced it was rolling out in a handful of cities across the U.S.
Show me the money
Mobike announced a whopping $600 million funding round back in June, with such big-name backers as Tencent, Sequoia, TPG, and Hillhouse Capital, among others. This took Mobike’s total funding to date to more than $900 million. Likewise, Ofo recently raised $700 million from Alibaba and Didi Chuxing (the Uber of China), among others, taking its total funding past the $1.2 billion mark.
San Mateo-based LimeBike has raised a more modest $12 million in funding, though its focus on the U.S. market could stand it in good stead domestically as Mobike and Ofo battle it out for mindshare in hundreds of cities around the world.
Mobike will kick off its U.S. foray by placing bikes “in key downtown locations” in Washington D.C., and the company said it made some tweaks to the bikes specifically for the D.C. market. These include a new design and, crucially, adding three gears to the mix — Mobikes are normally gearless.
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