When I was packing up my apartment in Brooklyn and thinking about all my travels a friend of mine told me to consider what are you running from and what are you running towards. I’ve considered that question a lot, particularly as this year has wholly and solely been about travel.
I’m running towards a wider lens.
More cultural understanding, more languages, more relationships, more on-the-ground experiences. Some of that culminated this morning when a VC that I follow, Fred Wilson, wrote about his experience in Shanghai Bikeshare and how we’d like to see NYC take some lessons from them.
To the passing eye Ofo & all the companies out there are great–I love the services and price point they provide, but an a quick in-market perspective shows that there are larger issues to having.
Here’s what he wrote
I’m a big Citibike user in NYC. I take it to and from work sometimes. I take it to and from the ferries a lot. And I use it to get twenty or thirty blocks in 5-10 mins when I don’t have the time to walk it.But one thing I don’t like about Citibike is the anxiety around having an empty docking spot at your preferred destination kiosk. If there are no empty docks, you have to go to the nearest one in search of an empty dock. I’ve sometimes had to try three or four kiosks which is very frustrating.
Here in Shanghai, they do things a bit differently, and I think a bit better.
The bike share bikes are everywhere that we’ve been in Shangahi but they don’t dock in kiosks. They just lock up when you end your ride and the next person unlocks them with an app on their phone.
And here’s what I was able to reply with:
Adding some context that may not be immediately visible: with the lack of docking infrastructure in that bikes get left all over/muddled up in heaps. Those firms (ofo, etc) pay trucks to go collect them from around the city/where they are & disperse them around the city. That wasn’t built infrastructure, originally the government was tasked with the cleanup—citizens weren’t happy.
This is doable in China with low labor/transport costs, but I dont want it to seem like that doesn’t impact burn rate—it does.
Financing these companies, and accounting for the competitive rates that the 4,5 bike share companies have played into (way under market pricing), means a lot of TBD floating capital investments (that have also led to bloated valuations [read: Ofo].
I wonder how decentralizing bikeshare in NYC can work for investors/stakeholders.
I wonder what we can learn from their bumps/bruises to have a softer landing here at home.
Cheers from sunny Harlem,
These are insights that couldn’t exist unless someone spent some time in Beijing/Shanghai. I’ve got ways to go on my Mandarin and I don’t expect to be fluent anytime soon—or maybe never, but I’m eager for the adventures I’m on seeing the world and beginning to see how they may materialize for clients, companies, and maybe someday investors that finance built infrastructure.
How amazing it would be if this could culminate to influence more opportunity for communities that I identify with [traditionally not thought about] through new business and better infrastructure.
Next stop: Delhi. (next week though 😉 )