Chinese bike-sharing company Ofo arrives in Seattle

The Chinese bike-sharing startup Ofo, valued over $2 billion after the latest round of fundraising, officially kicked off operations in Seattle last week, its first stop in North America.
Written by Cyrus Lee, Contributor
(Image: Ofo)

Chinese bike-sharing startup Ofo has brought 1,000 of its signature yellow bicycles to the streets of Seattle, Washington, after successfully acquiring permission from local authorities, according to a Sina news report.

Dai Wei, founder of Ofo, said the mission of the company is to solve the "last mile" transportation problem in urban areas, and the US market leaves enormous potential for Ofo as it offers the city a convenient, affordable, and low-emission way to travel.

It is the first permit that a local US authority has granted to a Chinese bike-sharing operator. The number of bikes for use in Seattle is expected to grow further to cater to the needs of local residents and visitors, according to Ofo.

In an announcement made in early July, Ofo said it had completed Series E funding round by raising $700 million from various investors including ecommerce giant Alibaba, making the latest valuation of the Chinese startup exceed $2 billion.

Ofo started its global expansion in late 2016 after becoming one of the two leading bike-sharing brands in China, along with Tencent-backed Mobike.

Established in 2014, Ofo has ridden into seven countries -- Singapore, the UK, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, and the latest US market -- in less than a year.

Rival Mobike, meanwhile, has arrived in overseas markets such as Italy, Singapore, and the UK over the past few months.

However, as Chinese bike-sharing companies have mostly utilized smart lock technology that allows users to rent and park bicycles anywhere, cities such as Shanghai have become littered with improperly-parked bikes, according to local authorities.

On Friday, Shanghai Municipal Transportation Commission announced as a result that no new shared bikes will be allowed into circulation in the city, capping the number at 1.5 million.

The local regulator also demanded bike-sharing firms to combat improperly parked bikes in the city, for which both Ofo and Mobike have expressed support.

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