ofo: Innovation and the Little Yellow Bicycle
Ofo (stylized "ofo"), a Beijing-based bicycle-sharing company, had grown bicycle sharing from nothing into a dockless mobile application (app) service industry with over 120 million monthly active users sharing 30 million bicycles in cities across China and around the world. Founded by five bicycle enthusiasts in 2014, its dockless system used a smartphone application to unlock and locate nearby bicycles, charging an hourly rate for use. Although only two years old in 2017-and yet to turn a profit-the company was valued at over USD 1 billion in a recent E round of private-equity financing. ofo's new funds would be used to buy bicycles for international expansion and hire more talent, but in a rapidly changing, highly competitive environment, the company needed to assess its current and future position. Hugh Thomas is affiliated with Chinese University of Hong Kong.