Bike-Sharing Startup Mobike Opens in First City in U.S.

Mobike the bike-sharing startup based in China has arrived in the nation’s capital, its first city in the U.S. The launch in Washington, D.C. comes as several companies in the bike-sharing arena launch similar services across the U.S.

Mobike provides bikes and a technology platform that includes mobile apps that allow riders to simply unlock their bike of choice by scanning a special QR code using their smartphone.

Bikes offered by Mobike are chainless, have airless puncture-proof tires, and have aluminum anti-rust frames, all of which helps with longevity of the units.

Equally important is the bikes do not need docking stations, as users can lock the bicycle wherever they finish using it. It is easy to locate the bikes due to each one having GPS functionality built in.

Launched in 2016 in Shanghai, Mobike started in dozens of Chinese cities before launching in Singapore last March. That was followed by launches in the UK, Japan and other international markets. The bike-sharing startup is now operating in 180 cities, but the vast majority are located in China.

Its U.S. arrival is notable, since it comes just one month after Ofo, its rival in China launched in Seattle, its first U.S. city, and U.S. competitor LimeBike this week announced it would be rolling out in several more cities in the U.S.

In June, Mobike announced a funding round of $600 million, with high-profile backers that included Tencent, Sequoia, Hillhouse Capital and TPG amongst others.

The funding round took Mobike’s total amount of funding to over $900 million. Ofo announced funding of $700 million recently from Didi Chuxing and Alibaba, amongst others and now has received funding in excess of $1.2 billion.

LimeBike, based in San Mateo, California has raised only $12 million though the focus it has put in the U.S. market will likely give it an advantage domestically as Ofo and Mobike battle for market share in cities across the globe.

Mobile will begin its foray into the U.S. by putting bikes into key locations in downtown Washington, D.C. and it said it made tweaks to its bike specifically for this market.

Those tweaks include a redesign of the bike, and the addition of three gears, as Mobikes are usually gearless.

These three moves by three bike-sharing startups has made it interesting in the bike-sharing industry across the U.S., which means prices will remain low as the three players grapple for market share.