Chinese bicycle-sharing startup MoBike eyes expansion into Singapore

A man uses a smartphone as he rides a Beijing Mobike Technology Co. bicycle in Beijing on Oct 19, 2016. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
MoBike's Singapore general manager Florian Bohnert, 28, said the company has been in talks with universities and polytechnics in Singapore to start the service in their campuses. ST PHOTO: DON CHI

SINGAPORE - A Shanghai-based startup is looking to bring its stationless bicycle-sharing service to Singapore, with plans to launch here next year (2017).

The service will allow users to drop off their rented bicycles at any public bike parking space, instead of having to return them to fixed docking stations.

The company behind it, MoBike, is currently operating in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and now has its eyes set on the Singapore market.

Officially launched in Shanghai in April (2016), the firm counts as its investors China's Tencent Holdings and Singapore's Vertex Venture Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek, it told The Straits Times on Monday (Oct 31).

MoBike's Singapore general manager Florian Bohnert said that it has been in talks with universities and polytechnics in Singapore to start the service in their campuses, but he declined to reveal where and when.

Mr Bohnert told The Straits Times: "Students can cycle from classroom to classroom within the campus, or from the campus to a nearby MRT station, or even to a neighbouring town."

MoBike uses its own make of bicycles, with a rear-wheel lock which users unlock using a mobile app. The bicycles' locations are tracked via GPS (global positioning system), and users can find available bicycles near to them using the same app.

In China, it costs one yuan (S$0.20) to rent a MoBike for 30 minutes. Users also have to put down a refundable deposit of 299 yuan (S$61.40). The pricing for the Singapore market is still being worked out, said Mr Bohnert.

Mr Bohnert said that MoBike can help Singapore's commuters in their first- and last-mile journey. "The idea is to complement Singapore's very efficient public transportation system. People can cycle from home to the closest bus (stop) or MRT station,or from the MRT station to the office."

Mr Bohnert said MoBike plans to work with the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to allow its bicycles to be parked at void decks. It also wants to work with office building owners to do likewise.

The start-up has found favour with investors. Reports said that the latest disclosed funding round, which concluded in September (2016), attracted US$100 million (S$139 million), from investors such as Tencent Holdings, China's Hillhouse Capital, and American firm Warburg Pincus.

The previous round in August (2016) saw the startup netting US$10 million (S$13.9 million), from Hong Kong-based Panda Capital, China's Joy Capital, as well as Vertex.

Mr Bohnert said that MoBike is also keen to bid for the Land Transport Authority's tender to operate a bicycle-sharing scheme in the Jurong Lake District.

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