From bicycles to cell phone chargers to umbrellas and basketballs, the Chinese sharing economy is booming. Didi Chuxing was its first giant, offering taxi-hailing and ride-sharing services. Mobike and Ofo are fighting more than 30 startups to dominate bike sharing.
But is the sharing economy becoming a bubble? If so, this could be one sign: More than 40 venture capital companies have invested in cell phone charger sharing startups in shopping malls, targeting smartphone-addicted Chinese urbanites.
In this new industry, Xiaodian Technology is the best funded, having raised around 450 million yuan ($65 million) from investors such as the internet giant Tencent.
Xiaodian is easy to use. No need to download any apps. Users just scan the WeChat QR code, follow the company’s account on WeChat, and deposit 100 yuan. Then the machine dispenses a charger.
Users do have to buy a cable, which costs 10 yuan, to charge their phone.
The cost? Nothing for the first hour, then 1 yuan ($0.70) per hour after that.
When they’re done, users just need to find the nearby locations of charging stations and return the charger.
Will the business model be as successful as Mobike’s?
Wang Sicong, son of the Chinese business tycoon Wang Jianlin, says no.
He says, “I will go eat shit if a shared charging business can succeed.”
Meanwhile, in the evolving sharing economy, borrowers can also use their smartphone to unlock and borrow this colorful umbrella.
Is China’s sharing business becoming a bubble? That remains to be seen.