China’s bike-sharing boom has claimed a second victim with another startup discovering that it’s hard to operate a shared bike business with no bicycles.
Wu Shenghua founded Beijing-based 3Vbike in February, using 600,000 RMB ($89,000) of his own money to purchase the first 1,000 bikes. But only four months later, he told the Legal Evening News that there were only dozens left.
In order to avoid ferocious competition in China’s top cities, Wu decided to launch his app in four different small cities in Hebei and Fujian provinces (Baoding, Langfang, Qinhuangdao and Putian). After a few months, 3Vbike had 11,000 registered users.
But Wu came to find that his strategy of targeting third-tier cities also had its difficulties. Theft was rampant and the local infrastructure was not set up to help him enter the market. Wu said that when his bikes were confiscated by authorities he couldn’t figure out how to get them back.
To make money, Wu had planned to sell advertising space on his bicycles, but discovered a flaw in his plan when the bikes began disappearing by the dozens. With no bikes in some areas, he was forced to close up shop on June 21st, sending out a message on WeChat to users, asking them to claim their deposits.
The failure of 3Vbike follows that of Wukong Bikes earlier in June. Started in the infamously hilly city of Chongqing with bikes not equipped with GPS, Wukong became the predictable first casualty of the shared bike explosion which has been set off in China over the past year with dozens of bike-sharing startups springing up around the country.
Thus far, local governments have had a hard time regulating this new phenomenon. “Shared bike graveyards” have grown in major cities, filled with thousands upon thousands of confiscated bicycles that had been illegally parked on the street and sidewalk. Rather than go through the trouble of retrieving them from the authorities, major bike-sharing companies like Mobike and Ofo have decided instead to let them rust away.
[Images via Sina]
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