The golden days of free rides may be over, but the two-year long rivalry is survived by bike sharing–analogies drawn between the transportation wars that recently ended and the bike-sharing battle now going at full-throttle, are abundant.
While Mobike’s CEO Wang Xiaofeng comes straight from Uber’s Shanghai office, one of the chief backers of OFO is Didi, who sees Ofo as the missing piece to last leg of the journey.
Nevertheless, unlike ride sharing, where the contest is mostly over software UX and market strategy, hardware technology is a critical piece of criteria to win users over.
“We need to be constantly iterating our bikes, and to stay a step ahead of the trends…our priority is to erect technological barriers, and receive more patents– now we already have 30–that way market competition will not be an issue” said Joe Xia, CTO of Mobike, speaking at TechCrunch Beijing on Tuesday.
Each Mobike has a QR code printed at the back, which will release the lock when scanned, and a GPS tracking device which allow users to locate bikes on a map–exactly like how Didi and Uber. These small tech features give Mobike an edge when placed against rival Ofo, whose bikes are run of the mill street bikes, and use less sophisticated combo locks (for now the combination for each individual bike is fixed), and doesn’t show the exact positioning of each bike.
“Mobike is powered by technology, and the data that we collect day to day allows us to better plan where and when we deploy the bikes,” he explained. The plethora of big data generated from bike sharing platforms may be just as valuable as the type generated on by hailing platforms. Though this means that Mobike could incorporate surge pricing methods, Joe says the company has no such plans at the moment. “Our goal is for a greater population to go green, as for commercialization strategies, that’s much further down the road, we’re not concerned about that right now.”
Balance sheet matters might be marginal, but regulation concerns have been front and center from the very beginning, a lesson reaped, perhaps, from Didi-Uber’s difficulty in attaining an illicit status. Joe says Mobike is sharing some of the conclusions from Mobike’s data with the government, perhaps currying favor to prepare for a future “judgment day”.
“We’re working with the traffic planning authorities with our data, to guide them in decisions about bike lanes and efficiently design smart cities,” said Joe. “We want the authorities to really make use of our data, and create value for society. ”