The ‘sharing economy’ is great in principle. But as OFO shows, it needs to work within the constraints of current human mentality.
First published in Dec 2018. Did it age well?
OFO, the yellow bike sharing service, is in full on contraction. It’s unviable and never was. They appeared in Sheffield for a couple of months before being withdrawn. It’s the same story pretty much everywhere for them. Globally they are on the edge of bankruptcy and are scaling back everything. They’re a Chinese company, and rumour has it there were literally piles of their bikes littering the streets. This is a company that raised, and presumably spent, over $2000,000,000. Two billion. So why didn’t it work, commercially speaking?
Perhaps it was a flawed idea in the first place. ‘Uber for bikes’ and investors threw money at it. But it was never Uber for bikes. With Uber, people own the cars, and offer a taxi service facilitated by an app. Uber is the app, not the cars. With OFO, it’s a bike rental service. OFO provide the bikes, and the rental of them is facilitated via the app. No one owns anything except OFO. So it’s hardly surprising the bikes are stolen, vandalised, dumped, and otherwise abused. If we lived in a state of total social harmony and order, maybe it would work. But as it is, only a very small percentage of people need to be intent on disrupting the service to render it unworkable.
And now there’s another round of companies offering an even less feasible concept. Again, rental, this time electric scooters. Raising hundreds of millions and going for market share, expanding too fast to learn the inevitable lessons.
It won’t work in the UK. For one, they aren’t legal on roads or pavements, two, they’re even more likely to get stolen damaged and vandalised than bikes, and three, it’s too rainy.
Nice idea. Come back in 50 or 100 years when it’s more tropical. And maybe people will have grown up a bit as well.
A true sharing economy can and will come about when people are truely sharing.