Chinese bike-rental major ofo confirmed that it has named Fu Qiang, former senior vice president of Didi, as executive president of the company. Fu will report directly to company CEO Dai Wei upon appointment.
According to a company statement, Fu will leverage his deep industry experience to help ofo improve operating efficiency and upgrade user experiences.
This appointment comes in line with a tighter link between ofo and Didi, which is a large investor in the company. As a returning investor, the ride-hailing giant has been part of nearly every financing round of ofo since its first investment in Series B Plus in September 2016. Didi added ofo’s service into its main app this April, allowing users to book the bikes directly via the Didi ride-hailing app.
The tie-up between the two makes a tone of sense for their joint initiative in solving China’s transportation problems, but there are concerns that ofo’s founding team or even the startup itself is losing ground to Didi as an independent entity.
Usually, it’s uncommon to see big companies hiring high-level execs from outside, let alone in an executive position that oversees the daily operation of the unicorn. Local media (in Chinese) pointed out executives from Didi have take two of the eight places on ofo’s board. Ofo’s financial vice president was reportedly (in Chinese) replaced by a new recruit from Didi. Moreover, rumors that ofo’s CEO and founder Dai Wei is taking a backseat in company operation have been circulating for some time.
The company’s share structure shows Didi-related influence is gaining the upper hand in ofo. Dai Wei still holds a 36.2 percent stake in ofo’s shares with Didi coming a close second with 25.32 percent. However, the easy alliance between Didi and its early-stage investors like GSR Ventures and Matrix Partners, which are also major investors in ofo, would mean combined share holding would surpass those of ofo’s entrepreneur founding team.