Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Tencent have a timeworn tradition of competing through proxies, usually portfolio companies. In the ride-hailing war it was Kuaidi Dache vs Didi Chuxing; during the peak of China’s food delivery industry, it was Dianping against Meituan.
Now, it looks like bike-sharing – the country’s latest cash-burning industry – is following the same trajectory, with Ofo in Alibaba’s camp and Mobike in Tencent’s.
Ant Financial, Alibaba’s financial affiliate, announced today that it would add six bike-sharing apps to Alipay, its mobile payment system. The app will have a new “scan and ride” feature starting on April 29, saving users the hassle of downloading individual apps while automatically giving them accident insurance. The company isn’t disclosing whether or not it takes a cut from bike rental fees.
The six bike-sharing companies are Ofo, YouonBike, UBike, Bluebike, Hellobike, and Funbike.
“Alipay definitely welcomes other bike-sharing partners so the answer would be yes. But it [depends] on both sides,” an Ant Financial PR spokesperson tells Tech in Asia, when asked whether Alipay would consider adding Mobike and other such services in the future.
In March, Mobike, one of the largest bike-sharing companies in China and Ofo’s arch-rival, was added to WeChat Wallet, one of Tencent’s mobile payment systems and Alipay’s main competitor. Inside WeChat itself, Mobike also has a mini program, or an embedded app that users don’t need to install.
Last October, Tencent invested an undisclosed amount of capital into Mobike in a round that included Sequoia Capital and Wang Xing, CEO of daily deals company Meituan-Dianping – also a portfolio company of Tencent.
On Ofo’s side, earlier this week the bike-sharing company received an undisclosed amount of funding from Ant Financial. The deal seals a long term partnership between the two, which includes collaboration on payments, credit, and overseas expansion. Users with Sesame Credit scores of 650 and above don’t have to pay Ofo’s deposit of US$14, for instance.
Sesame Credit is Ant Financial’s proprietary credit score system and will also be applied to the five other bike-sharing services in Alipay, so users don’t have to put down a deposit in order to rent a bike. According to Ant Financial, the addition of these six bike-sharing services will cover 6 million bikes across 50 cities.
Also in Alibaba’s camp for the bike-sharing war is ride-hailing company Did Chuxing, which is an investor of Ofo. Yesterday, the Beijing-based unicorn added Ofo to its app, putting it alongside its other transportation services, including private cars, shuttles, and even public buses. Interestingly enough, Tencent is one of Didi’s investors, which means that the Chinese social giant has second-degree ties to Ofo, the main competitor of one of its portfolio companies.
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