A common sight in China has been popping up in Silicon Valley lately: bright-yellow Ofo bikes.
The bike-sharing service claims 10 million users in China and recently began trial phases in the United States. Users can check out the bikes using a mobile app and don’t have to return them to a particular location.
An Ofo public relations employee declined to comment on how many bikes are available locally or what cities they’ve been placed in.
Claire Xiong, a Silicon Valley tech worker and venture capitalist, travels to China frequently for work and recently tried Ofo and one of its competitors, Mobike, in Beijing. While both companies’ bikes are plentiful in Beijing, Xiong said Mobike’s are a little easier to find because they have GPS locators, and the app tells users where the closest one is located.
But Xiong said Ofo bikes are more affordable and easier to ride. However, she’s skeptical that Ofo can succeed in the U.S.
“For a business model like this, it really requires a high population density. So it only works in metropolitan areas,” Xiong said. “For cities like San Francisco or New York City or, like, Los Angeles downtown or Chicago, there might be a chance. But for, let’s say, the Bay Area, we don’t have that much population.”