An ofo bike stand in Austin, Texas.
Tech leaders, musicians and wannabe entrepreneurs attending this year's South by Southwest (SXSW) festival may feel particularly blissful, as a trove of China-made bikes have parachuted their way into Austin, Texas, ready to transport festival-goers from one venue to the next.
Small, swift and stylish, hundreds of yellow bikes from ofo, one of China’s largest bike-sharing brand, have been dropped around major SXSW venues, including the Austin Convention Center, the JW Marriott Hotel and various locations in downtown Austin. The bikes will be entirely free to use for the duration of the sizzling event , March 10-19.
Held for the first time in 1987 with just 700 attendees, SXSW has since grown into a massive annual conglomeration of music, film and interactive media events, with a reputation as a breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies. On March 11, 2016, former U.S. President Barack Obama gave a speech at SXSW Interactive in which he called on the technology industry to help solve many of America's problems.
Ofo now offers unprecedented easy travel for trend-setting attendees of this year. Cyclists can obtain and discard ofo bikes wherever and whenever they please, as ofo offers the world’s first dockless bike-sharing service. To reserve a bike, riders can use the app to locate the nearest bicycle. Once they find it, they enter that bike’s number into the app, and a four-digit code is sent to open the lock on the back wheel. To return the bike, users can simply scramble the lock.
Users unlock ofo bikes outside Austin Convention Center, a major SXSW venue.
After conquering China, sweeping Singapore and earning a spot in Cambridge, ofo and its 25 million registered users appear poised to take off in Austin, as locals gleefully share pictures on Facebook and Twitter of ofo bikes along the Colorado River. An ofo spokesperson said that the company is in talks with Austin officials to negotiate further cooperation. The company is also planning a trial run in California.
Ofo will “make big moves globally this year, planning to expand to over 10 countries,” the spokesperson revealed.
On March 1, ofo announced a massive funding round of $450 million to help fend off its arch rival, Mobike, as both companies push into cities around the globe. Though the company didn’t officially reveal its worth, multiple mainstream media outlets including Bloomberg and TechCrunch stated this investment makes ofo the first bike-sharing “unicorn” to be worth more than $1 billion.
A Twitter post of ofo bike users.
A Twitter post of an ofo bike user.