Chinese bike-sharing startup Ofo enters North American market

Students use OFO sharing bicycles at campus in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China, September 6, 2016. Picture taken September 6, 2016. China Daily/via REUTERS

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Chinese bike-sharing startup Ofo has launched its services in Seattle, its first North American city, as part of efforts to expand internationally.

Ofo, which has more than eight million bicycles in more than 170 cities, will supply 1,000 bicycles to Seattle in August as part of a pilot programme and plans to increase its fleet after September, it said on Thursday.

“Our mission is to solve the ‘last mile’ transportation problem in urban areas and we see immense potential in the U.S. for Ofo’s convenient, affordable and low-carbon way of travel,” Dai Wei, founder and chief executive of Ofo, said in a statement.

Bike-sharing has been gaining popularity in cities globally due to its affordability and convenience. Users typically just need to download a mobile app on to their phones, scan a code to unlock the bicycle, then ride it away.

Ofo and Mobike, China’s two largest bike-sharing startups, have each raised more than $1 billion since late last year to expand at home and overseas and increase their market share.

People familiar with the matter said in late July Ofo is in talks to raise $1 billion in a new funding round led by Japan's SoftBank Group 9984.T.

Reporting by Lee Chyen Yee; Editing by David Holmes