The largest competitor and rival to ridesharing service Uber in Southeast Asia, Grab (formerly Grab Taxi), has made a significant investment into the “dock-less bikes” that are so popular and so prevalent throughout Southeast Asia – but they have done so very quietly though very systematically and are looking to make a huge push into this market segment throughout Asia as well.
A startup based in Singapore but led by Chinese founders, oBike is now a major part of the public transportation infrastructure in more than 30 different cities throughout Asia, and they have just recently received $45 million in Series B rounds of funding announced in August – and though no one at the time knew that the majority of this investment came from Grab.
According to industry insiders, many thought it was a little bit on that oBike wasn’t as forthcoming or as transparent as some thought they would or should be when they received this major injection of cash. During the initial round of Series A funding, oBike was relatively transparent about who the major investors were, but when it came to the Series B round of funding they clamped shut and wouldn’t reveal that Grab had been a major part of BOTH rounds of funding!
Grab remains pretty tightlipped about the fact that they have been pushing so aggressively into this space, which is not at all that surprising considering the fact that they were almost completely radio silent during the lead up to and in the immediate aftermath of the $100 million acquisition of Kudos (based out of Indonesia).
That operation allowed Grab to more rapidly build up and expand the Grab Pay mobile payment services that they have used to establish a more robust company and platform, and many now expect the same kind of investment to be made into operations like oBike (if not a full out takeover of the company) to better secure a more diverse solution for public transportation throughout Asia and the rest of the developed world.
Of course, the news that Grab has been involved in the investment rounds of oBike comes right on the heels of a recent report suggesting that Uber has itself been investing significantly into similar services in China and Japan. Apparently, Uber has decided to commit nearly $15 million into these kinds of bicycle services in the form of a new company headed by Didi Chuxing.
Previously, Didi was seen as one of the major investors into Grab, but with the new injection of capital to the tune of $2 billion from Toyota and the Toyota New Technology Division, the influence that he used to enjoy is now seen as slighting a little bit by the wayside.
These companies are still so new and still so revolutionary that it’s impossible to know exactly what the endgame is, but it’s exciting and interesting to see full-fledged competition in such a rapidly evolving and ever-changing market space like the ridesharing and mobile payment community. Now it’s all spilling into the dock-less bicycle services, and who knows where it will go from here!
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