China bets big on bike-sharing, while Uber rival shows its hand

16 Jun 2017

Image: ChiccoDodiFC/Shutterstock

Tencent has led a massive $600m funding round into China’s largest bike-sharing start-up, as Careem’s Middle Eastern promise bears fruit.

Already in 100 cities, mainly in China, Mobike’s plans are to get bigger and better, fast. Investment giant Tencent led a recent $600m funding round that will see Mobike enter 200 cities by the end of the year.

The start-up has raised around $900m in a little over seven months, with recent expansions into Singapore and, surprisingly, the UK, showing Mobike’s enthusiasm for global growth.

Mobike launched in April 2016, and Tencent tools (such as messaging behemoth WeChat) are already used to facilitate its service.

“We will accelerate the pace of global expansion, and our new target is to be in 200 cities by the end of this year,” confirmed Mobike CEO Davis Wang.

The new funding will also support investment in IoT and AI technology for the brand, with its current model allowing users to scan QR codes on bikes to access them.

Cars on demand

Elsewhere, Careem, a start-up in the same realm as Uber, has completed a $500m funding round, adding the latest $150m to the $350m secured before Christmas.

Operating in more than 80 cities, Careem has recently reached Turkey, expanded its Pakistan operations and re-entered areas such as Abu Dhabi. Much of its operations are in Saudi Arabia, where a significant portion of the new funding has come from.

Kingdom Holding Company, which is led by Saudi royalty, bought a 7pc stake in Careem for $62m as part of the round, while overall valuations of the company are about $1bn.

Investing in start-ups

In the US, Hardware Club has raised $28m to invest in early-stage hardware companies, with plans to put money into 10 per year.

“Our goal was always to build a new venture capital approach,” said co-founder Barbara Belvisi. “There is a community in terms of how we can help start-ups and how we can make them succeed.”

Meanwhile, AI start-up Conviva raised $40m this week, placing it firmly within the booming online content consumption market.

This industry is estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars at the moment, likely growing as more and more devices and services emerge to allow for direct viewing over the internet.

Conviva provides sensors for devices to measure streaming activity, with companies then able to monitor what content is working, and what is not.

“We have consistently been growing faster than the overall market and have developed a strong, sustainable business model,” said Dr Hui Zhang, CEO of Conviva.

In other funding news, Codota, a workflow optimisation start-up, has raised $2m in seed funding from Khosla Ventures.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic