Xiaomi CEO invests in cool electric bikes that connect to your smartphone
Electric bikes are no longer the preferred way of getting around China's cities. People are moving onto cars. The bike lanes are getting a bit less frenetically elbow-to-elbow as the roads fill up instead with gas-guzzlers that add to the polluted skylines. Yes, more e-bikes than cars are sold each year in China and there are more than 200 million e-bikes scattered across the nation, but cars have now won over the hearts of Chinese consumers.
So it seems an odd time for a Chinese startup to be building a fledgling business that specializes in electric scooters. But what YunMake has created isn't a normal electric-powered two-wheeler — it's a radically designed smart bike that connects with an app. The Yunbike X1 looks like this:
Proving that the startup's funky Yunbikes are not competing with regular e-bikes, the website is full of photos of guys unloading the smart bike from the trunk of their cars and then unfolding it. It's clearly meant to be a fun accessory like a Segway or those stupid things that everyone's calling hoverboards even though they don't hover.
The startup team behind the Yunbike got together in 2013 and unveiled the X1 a year later. Tomorrow, a new smart bike will be shown at a product launch event. Ahead of that launch, the team announced over the weekend that it has secured an undisclosed amount of series A funding. The latest funding was led by Shunwei Capital, the VC firm started by Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun — which also led an earlier US$1.6 million seed round. The other series A investors include Qualcomm Ventures, ZhenFund, and Foxconn.
Xiaomi has its own range of smart gadgets, such as the cheap Mi Band fitness bracelet and the Air Purifier, that sell alongside its hugely popular phones. There's no word on any tie-up between Xiaomi and the Yunbike crew aside from Xiaomi phones popping up in the smart scooter's promotional photos.
The Yunbike X1 weighs 16kg and can hit 25km/h, which is as fast as you'll want to go on those tiny wheels with weedy rubber brake pads. It can go 25 kilometers on a single charge. It has a small LED readout screen, but for the full smart bike experience you'll probably want to attach your smartphone and keep the Yunbike app open on it. The battery packs 36v/6.6AH and takes four hours to charge fully.