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Dai Wei (middle) and the four Ofo co-founders riding their bright-yellow bicycles. ©Ofo

INSIGHTS / THE BIG PICTURE

Dai Wei and his Ofo: Fighting till the last act?

China · Mar 25, 2019 · By Wang Xiao'e

How the college student who founded a global bike-sharing sensation also led it to the verge of bankruptcy through a string of mistakes

At its peak, Ofo, the bike-sharing app from Beijing, was operating in over 250 cities across 21 countries, and used by some 200 million people. Today, the four-year-old startup, whose valuation reached nearly US$3 billion, is on the brink of bankruptcy. 

Over 13 million irate users in China have been demanding the refund of their RMB 99–199 deposits since December 2018, sparking a cash-flow crisis at a company already struggling to finance a long-drawn price war as rivals flooded the market. Around the same time, its founder and CEO Dai Wei also found himself on an official blacklist for defaulting on loans

The troubled company also owed two suppliers nearly RMB 150 million in payments in November 2018. Ofo has since pulled out of several markets, including Australia, Germany and Austria.

Ofo started as a school project at Peking University in 2015. Dai, who was a student at the university and a cycling enthusiast, said, “I think cycling is the best way to know the world.”

It soon became apparent that his ambition went farther. At its launch, Ofo announced via WeChat: “For over a century, many Peking University graduates have made a difference on this campus as well as in the whole world. It’s our turn now!”

Edited by Bernice Tang

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