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Co-founder of failing bike-sharing firm Ofo Dai Wei looks for new business opportunities in New York

Chinese businessman Dai Wei, who is best known as the creator of the once-failed Ofo bike, is currently extending his commercial chances in New York City.

His coffee shop, About Time Coffee, has given rise to other sites in prestigious areas of downtown Manhattan.

In addition to being endorsed by several influencers, About Time Coffee has grown in popularity on social media sites like TikTok and Instagram:

In Gramercy Park, the first About Time location opened its doors in February of last year. Investors have shown trust in Mr. Dai’s new business endeavour in New York, including ZhenFund and IDG Capital’s Chinese division.

Investors appear to have overlooked Mr. Dai’s prior failure with Ofo as evidenced by the fact that he was able to secure investment from backers, including Beijing-based Will Hunting Capital, an early supporter of the bike-sharing start-up.

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About Time, which has a US$40 million valuation, has received more than US$10 million (S$13.4 million), according to Bloomberg.

Using a successful Chinese business model as a guide, the coffee company seeks to provide consumers with a cheaper, better-tasting alternative to Starbucks.

Although Mr. Dai is not involved in the day-to-day operations of About Time, the CEO Marian Chen said in an interview with Bloomberg that he was instrumental in assembling the team and setting up meetings with investors.

Mr. Dai denied a request for an interview with Bloomberg despite holding a minority stake.

2019 saw LTA consider suspending Ofo.

Dai Wei, who was born in Huainan, Anhui, in 1991, studied computer science at Peking University in China while also serving as the president of the Peking University Students’ Union.

From the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, he later earned an MBA.

Along with Xue Dong and Zhang Siding, Dai Wei co-founded Ofo in September 2015. One of China’s top bike-sharing businesses, Ofo quickly rose to prominence with its dockless bike-sharing model that it intended to revolutionise urban transportation.

As CEO, Dai Wei oversaw the expansion of Ofo’s activities to over 250 cities in 21 countries, and the company amassed a valuation of close to $3 billion.

But eventually, Ofo’s failure was due to its quick expansion, aggressive worldwide strategy, financial constraints, fierce competition, regulatory obstacles, and operational inefficiencies.

The company’s major sources of income were user deposits and advertising, however these proved to be unsustainable, necessitating the development of a more solid and resilient business strategy.

In December 2018, Ofo received criticism from more than 13 million Chinese users who demanded refunds for their deposits, and Dai Wei himself discovered that his name was on a government blacklist as a result of loan defaults.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Singapore revoked Ofo’s operating licence in 2019 for failing to adhere to the country’s rules, which included implementing a QR code-based parking management system to control bicycle parking in designated zones.

Before using Ofo’s services, users had to put down a deposit of S$49, and it was noted that S$8.9 million in deposits were unpaid when the business stopped operating in Singapore.

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