Hot on the heels of getting acquired for $2.7 billion by on-demand services startup Meituan-Dianping en route to its own $60 billion IPO, Chinese bike-sharing startup Mobike is ramping up its international push as companies like Uber, Lyft and other standalone bike-on-demand startups take their own expansion strategies up a gear.
The company will this week start integrating with Citymapper, the mapping and navigation app focused on urban areas and public transportation, in all cities where both companies operate (Citymapper is now live in 39 cities; while Mobike calls itself the world’s largest bike-sharing startup, in 200 cities in some 15 countries).
This will mean that users of Citymapper will be able to select bike routes on the app, and also see where they can find a Mobike to complete those journeys, giving the bike-hire-on-demand company one more way to snag customers in what is shaping up to be a very competitive market for transportation options geared to single users.
TechCrunch first learned of the integration by way of an anonymous tip, which was then confirmed to us by a spokesperson from Mobike itself. (We sent multiple emails to Citymapper, but didn’t receive any replies.)
“Bikesharing is a true new emerging global transport platform, so a partnership with Citymapper, one of the most popular transport apps in the world, is a logical step,” said the spokesperson. “Partnering with Citymapper means that more and more people will realise how easy using a Mobike is, encouraging cycling everywhere for short urban trips.”
London-based Citymapper taps APIs from city transportation networks to provide bike routes alongside walking, bus, train, ferry and car routes. In cities where there are city bike schemes — for example in London and New York — it shows locations for bike docking stations and, if available, information on how many bikes are available.
But while there are in London — as one example — some 750 docking stations in the city covering 11,000 bikes, there are large swathes of the city, particularly outside the center, where the city bike scheme doesn’t reach. That presents an opportunity for these bike startups, which are often not banked at docks but parked on sidewalks, to cater to people who may not own a bike but would like to ride one from points A to B, when one or both of those are not near a docking station.
For the moment, you still have to register through the Mobike app to be able to reserve a Mobike you find on Citymapper. And it’s not a given that you will ever be able to book these directly: if you look at Citymapper’s Uber integration it gives you an estimate but links to the Uber app to actually seal the deal (this is now also what Google Maps does, too).
The spokesperson confirmed that there is no revenue share in this deal, and it’s not exclusive. “Mobike is in conversation with a variety of other companies which focus on helping people improve their journeys,” said the spokesperson. “They will announce partnerships as they come.” Mobike is also planning to expand into India this year.
While taxi and ride-on-demand companies duke it out for customers in cities and towns against alternative motorised options like people’s own private cars, buses and trains, in dense urban environments, there has been a secondary track of competition developing around vehicles that are geared (sorry) to more individual modes of transport, such as bikes and electric scooters.
The runaway success of other transportation-on-demand services has driven a lot of investors to look for the next big transport opportunity, which in turn has turned into a glut of money going into these smaller, semi-manual vehicle companies, and a subsequent glut of bikes and scooters filling city streets in that wake.
Electric scooters in particular have raised a lot controversy, because of how scooter services are run, potential safety concerns, and legal requirements for the drivers, to name just three of the issues. That leaves, potentially, more open road for manual bikes, which fall outside of some of these regulations so can grow a little more easily (if with more human pedal power).
All the same, there are a number of bike companies competing for potential customers, so by integrating with Citymapper, Mobike gets more visibility above that competition, specifically at a time when its new owner is itself looking for more differentiated revenue streams as it reportedly gears up for a public listing valued at $60 billion.
Citymapper itself has raised $50 million from investors that include Balderton, Benchmark, Index and Yuri Milner and it has to date not spelled out many details on how it plans to monetise, although in February it launched a hybrid taxi and small bus service serving under-served routes in the city, pointing to how it might evolve those business plans in the future with its own transportation options alongside routing suggestions.
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