So the rumours that have been spreading for months have finally authenticated: Bluegogo, once China’s 3rd biggest shared bicycles operator, folded.
There are many news reports about this incident, although none of them caught the bizarre event in June that probably cost Bluegogo, once valued at US$140 million, its fortunes.
The tank campaign
In early June, a promotion appeared on the Bluegogo app:
“Bicycle matches better with tanks.
From 3rd to 4th of June, ride Bluegogo bikes with a tank logo twice and stand a chance to win great awards.
Five Beats headsets and 20 Mi bands are waiting for you!”
Together with the promo ad is an image of a line of tank logos on the map of Chang’an Avenue, right in front of Tiananmen Square.
June 4th is an (extremely) politically sensitive date in China. For those who are not aware of the incident in 1989, you can read this Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Liberation_Army_at_Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989
I am almost certain Bluegogo was set up – no sensible businessman in China will play with fire like this.
It will probably remain a mystery what really happened, and who did it.
Friends in Beijing confirmed that the number of Bluegogo bikes reduced dramatically after the marketing campaign.
Li Gang, the founder of Bluegogo, was really optimistic during the first half of this year. However, no investor seemed to be willing to write a check for them after the incident.
A few months later, municipal governments of major cities in China revealed regulations that banned the deployment of additional shared bicycles into the streets, effectively killing every player’s hope to catch up with Mobike and ofo, the two leaders in bike sharing.
Visionary, but too many mis-steps
Bluegogo bikes had the best user experience, according to many friends who have tried them: light frame, fast unlocking, low break-down ratio, and simply easier to pedal.
They were also one of the first shared bicycle companies from China to eye global markets, sending bikes to the streets of San Francisco last year.
They also considered entering Singapore market, well ahead of MoBike, ofo or oBike.
However, the international execution was not sound. The first bikes that went to San Francisco ran into problems with the authorities; and they took too long to decide whether to hire a team in Singapore (with no decision made eventually).
In the highly competitive market, any mistake will cost you precious time, while your competitors dash ahead.