Bike-sharing giant Mobike Technology Ltd, which says it has as many as 25 million riders a day in China, reportedly is looking to put riders on its bikes in the US capital and has put out the “Help wanted” sign in the area.
One of the jobs Mobike posted on the professional networking site LinkedIn is for an operation manager, based in Washington, who would need to get to know “the local environment” and “be the main point of contact for the regional government officials and Transport Authorities”, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“We understand there has been market speculation about Mobike’s growth plans,” Xue Huang, Mobike’s head of communication, told China Daily in email without confirming the company’s plans for Washington.”Before we enter any new city, we invest considerable time engaging with local regulators and communities to understand how our smart bike solution can best help address local market needs.”
In Washington, Mobike will face competition from Capital Bikeshare, a local company that operates more than 3,700 bikes at 440 stations across five jurisdictions around metropolitan Washington.
Mobike’s main Chinese rival, OfoInc, also is looking at starting operations in the US. Co-founder Yu Xin said a trial is still going on, “but we will also move into official operation soon in several local cities.”
Ofo operates 6.5 million bikes in more than 150 cities in five countries. It has raised more than $700 million in its latest funding from investors including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd to bring its yellow bikes to 20 million in 200 cities globally by the end of this year.
Mobike, which is backed by Tencent and Apple supplier Foxconn, among others, has raised $600 million recently to expand its business outside of China.
It says it has 5 million bikes in China with as many as 25 million riders on peak days and more than 100 million registered users. It operates in 130 cities across countries including China, Japan, Singapore and the UK, aiming to increase that number to 200 by the end of the year, mainly by expanding into more foreign locations.
Both Mobike and Ofo offer “dockless” bike-sharing, allowing urban residents to lock and unlock bikes anywhere via a smartphone app, picking them up or return them by the roadside and bike racks rather than designated docking stations.
But regulations have been a challenge for dockless bike-sharing companies in the US. When Chinese startup Bluegogo International Inc tried to expand into San Francisco in January, it met stiff resistance from local officials and altered its initial plans and used private parking spaces instead of public bike racks for its bikes.
Some other cities like New York, already have agreements with dock-based bike sharing programs such as Citi Bike.
According to a report from research firm Roland Berger last year, bike sharing has become a global business, with about 1,000 operations around the world. The industry is expected to be worth as much as $5.9 billion by 2020, according to the report.
Ruinan zhang contributed to this story.