Fresh startups with millions of dollars in funding run out of cash and collapse. Bike-sharing companies – with their capital-intensive, cash-burning, ride-subsidizing business model – were among the hottest startups in China. They’ve attracted $2 billion in venture funding over the 18 months of the frenzy. They now count over 40 platforms, though the industry is dominated by huge piles of mutilated, stolen, and abandoned bicycles and by two unicorns (valued over $1 billion), Mobike and Ofo, that kicked off the frenzy and carve up 95% of the market.
But this is how quickly a frenzy can deflate.
On Thursday, Chinese media reported that Mingbike, with operations in major cities, had laid off 99% of its staff, after consumers had complained that they’d been unable to get their deposits of 199 yuan (about $30) back. Some of the laid-off employees ‘posted complaints on social media saying their salary had been withheld for several months,’ according to the South China Morning Post:
Calls by the South China Morning Post to Mingbike’s main phone line were not answered. The last post on the company’s Weibo account was in earlier October and its WeChat account has not been updated since November 10.
In response to the latest closure and growing risk of deposit refunds, Chinese authorities have stepped in, with Ministry of Transport spokesman Wu Chungeng saying on Thursday that local governments would play a major role in ensuring protection of consumer rights. He added that regulations for the industry were being drawn up by authorities.
This post was published at Wolf Street on Nov 26, 2017.