A film documenting the experiences of Chinese tech founders including Ofo’s Dai Wei and Smartisan’s Luo Yonghao has turned out to be a box office flop.

Titled “Startups” in English and “Ignition Point” in Chinese (our translation), the movie premiered on Jan. 11, making just RMB 530,000 (around $80,000) on its first day. The film recorded RMB 2.8 million in ticket sales as of Tuesday afternoon. Male moviegoers made up more than 60% of the audience, while around 30% of all views were between the ages of 20 and 24 years old.

“White Snake,” an animated film also released on Jan. 11, made in excess of RMB 57 million by 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

Box office revenue as of Jan. 15. “Ignition Point” is at 7th place. (Image credit: CBO)

The disappointing results coincide with the recent fall from grace of two leads in the film. Both Ofo’s Dai and Smartisan’s Luo were in the prime of their entrepreneurial journeys when the documentary was filmed in 2017. However, their situations changed dramatically last year.

With the bike-rental at its peak, Ofo was an investment darling in 2017. The company received huge amounts of funding, raking in more than $700 million in its Series E led by Alibaba in July 2017. Since then, Ofo has experienced a dramatic turn due to a cash crunch.

The company retreated from international markets last year and received millions of deposit refund requests as reports of its cash crunch intensify. Dai was put on a government blacklist in December for not fulfilling his payment obligations, banning him from the purchase of higher-end goods and services.

Smartphone manufacturer Smartisan suffered a similar fate. In November, the company confirmed it was having cash flow issues, leading to layoffs and trouble paying employees’ salaries. Last month, the company stripped 10 top executives of their directorships and had its bank account frozen by Beijing court.

The documentary also features other prominent figures, including Fu Sheng, founder of mobile internet giant Cheetah Mobile; Xu Xiaoping, founder of Zhen Fund; Papi, a Chinese viral video blogger; and Tang Yan, founder of social dating app Momo.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

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