Editor’s note: This originally appeared on Analyse Asia, a weekly podcast hosted by Bernard Leong, dedicated to dissecting the pulse of business, technology, and media in Asia. The podcast features guests from Asia’s vibrant tech community.

Eva Xiao from Tech in Asia joined us in a conversation about the exciting phenomenon of bicycle sharing startups happening now in China. Eva provided a comprehensive overview of the bike-sharing space and explained why it has suddenly heated up. We also discussed the major players Mobike & Ofo on their customer acquisition, business models and investors behind them. Last but not least, we discuss the impact of bike sharing startups towards regulation and whether the Baidu-Alibaba-Tencent (BAT) are influencing them in this space.

Listen to the episode here or subscribe.

Here are the interesting show notes and links to the discussion (with timestamps included):

  • Eva Xiao, China Reporter in Tech In Asia (@evawxiao LinkedIn, WeChat: evawxiao, Tech in Asia)
    • Re-introduction and we start off with the recording in International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017. [0:40]
    • What have you been up to since we last spoke on?
      • US trip (Baidu, China-watching investors in Silicon Valley) [2:02]
      • Chinese content startups (Pear Video, Bilibili) [3:02]
  • Bicycle Sharing in China [4:49]
    • Can you give a brief introduction to the phenomenon of bicycle sharing in China? [4:49]
      • Dockless bike sharing – users find nearby bikes and can drop them off anywhere
      • Two models currently: (1) scanning QR codes to unlock bikes – popularized by Mobike (2) users are sent a code, which is used to open a physical lock – Ofo’s method
      • How does the consumer actually access the service? [6:30]
        • WeChat official account, smartphone app, WeChat mini program
        • Is the bike sharing a good used case for WeChat mini program? [7:25]
      • What is the business models behind the bicycle sharing? [8:30]
        • Unclear (given that renting a bike costs less than a dollar per half hour), though many speculate that companies are making money by investing user deposits
        • Other costs: bike hardware, logistics (bikes are re-arranged and moved around – user behavior may not distribute bikes in the most optimal way), vandalism/theft [9:56]
    • Why has bicycle-sharing in China suddenly exploded in China? [13:09]
      • Last mile transport, following the end of the ride-hailing craze
      • Robust existing O2O infrastructure (QR codes, mobile payments)
      • Price gouging (renting bikes via Mobike and Ofo is now free on the weekends, for example)
      • Convenience and ubiquity of bikes
      • Typical boom-and-bust cycle in China’s tech industry
    • What are the major bike sharing startups that have shown up in the space and how are they different from each other? [15:52]
      • Mobike
      • Ofo
      • Xiaoming Danche, Bluegogo, 100 Bike…
    • How does the bike sharing platforms acquire their users? Is it via WeChat? [18:35]
      • WOM, WeChat, bike visibility, billboards
    • What is the coverage of the bicycle sharing startups in China? Have they engulfed China and started expanding elsewhere? [20:36]
      • Both Mobike and Ofo are in Singapore
      • Bluegogo is in San Francisco (but facing resistance from the city government)
    • Who are the key investors to the bike sharing companies? Do you see any BAT influence entering into the bike sharing space?  [22:15]
      • Ofo: Didi Chuxing, Xiaomi, Matrix Partners China, DST & Yuri Milner
      • Mobike: Tencent, Sequoia Capital, Temasek, Foxconn
    • Does bicycle sharing have an impact on the ride-sharing companies such as Didi? [23:25]
      • More of a partnership
    • Where do you see bike sharing apps go in 2017? [24:16]

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