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Mobike seeking staff for Washington office as it prepares to ride into US market

Helen Pidd riding a Mobike in rainy Manchester. Photo: The Guardian

China's bike-sharing company Mobike has published two recruitment ads on LinkedIn for the position of a social media creator and an operations manager based in Washington DC in demonstration of its intent to do business in the US.

The recruitment ads were posted 10 days after Mobike made inroads into Manchester and Salford on June 29, its first destinations outside of Asia, where users will be able to pick up and ride bicycles by scanning a QR code through the Mobike app. Mobike started its global expansion in March when it launched its service in Singapore.

Mobike has managed to keep strategic investors interested since its establishment in 2015. Also in June, the bike-sharing company obtained an additional $600 million in a new fundraising round which was led by China's technology giant Tencent in a push to fuel its ambitious global expansion.

Moreover, in order to facilitate its overseas operations, Mobike has signed a series of agreements to enable its users to complete payments via various digital payment systems such as Apple Pay and Masterpass, with its Chief Executive Wang Xiaofeng claiming in a recent interview with Bloomberg that the company was planning to connect the Mobike app with more overseas online payment platforms.

A foray into the American market has raised concerns over whether Mobike can compete with Motivate, the largest bike-sharing operator in the US, which partners with several brands including Citi Bike, Ford GoBike, and Capital Bikeshare in big American cities, as media reports have said that Mobike might find it harder to create a market for the last-mile transport in the Western countries because such countries have much smaller populations and relatively perfect public transport system, leading to a lack of demand for the bike-sharing service.

According to statistics from Motivate's official website, the biggest brand that Motivate operates is the New York City-based Citi Bike system, which has about 10,000 bikes and 603 stations and makes up roughly 40 percent of America's total bike-sharing trips. And in Washington DC, Mobike will face a direct competition from the local Capital Bikeshare, which operates more than 3,700 bikes at 440 stations across five jurisdictions around metropolitan Washington.

Another problem that Mobike will face is that the American users have got used to parking bikes at the designated stations after rides, compared with the Chinese bike-sharing company which allows its users to leave bikes wherever they want, largely causing public nuisance and traffic problems.

What's more, Mobike has to reach a consensus with the local government before operating in the American market, standing in stark contrast to China, where the city regulators have long struggled to catch up with the industry's speedy development and the regulations are relatively loose.

Take Bluegogo, another Chinese bike-sharing service provider trailing the leaders Mobike and Ofo, as an example. Before its launch in San Francisco in December last year, the Chinese dockless bike-sharing company shipped hundreds of bikes and placed them in a warehouse for further deployment, but it was stopped by the local government which later issued regulations requiring such bike-sharing companies to pay the city to install more bike racks, reimburse it for the cost of citation and investigation of the lost bikes, provide unlimited rides for low-income riders and not clash with the existing contractual bike-sharing system (referring to Motivate that provides docked bike-sharing schemes in many American cities).

However, the dockless bike-sharing business in the US might be a blue ocean for Mobike, as Helen Pidd, North of England editor for the Guardian based in Manchester, praised Mobike for its advantages including random parking, lower charges and less dependence on public funds in an article.

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