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Share bike turmoil and Tiananmen Square promotion helped doom SpeedX

Published June 13, 2019

A Chinese company that raised millions by launching a connected road bike with crowdfunding campaigns wound up just a few years later gone without a trace except for 800,000 abandoned share bikes. 

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A CyclingTips.com article published Thursday tells the story of Li Gang, a young Chinese entrepreneur who launched the SpeedX Leopard road bike on Kickstarter, where it raised over $10 million.

After delivering some of the bikes, Li Gang launched a new company, Bluegogo, which quickly became the third largest Chinese sharebike brand, behind Mobike and Ofo.

But the global share bike industry will have to go down as one of the most tumultuous market phenomena in decades, and Bluegogo was not immune to its chaos.

"Our plucky little blue SpeedX offshoot, Bluegogo, rose and fell with these tides. But more than most other companies, it would become emblematic of the folly of the bikeshare boom. In a topsy turvy way, growth in itself became the goal, rather than the creation of conditions that would allow that growth to happen organically," wrote Iain Treloar in the CyclingTips article, "What happened to SpeedX?" 

Treloar reports that Bluegogo was finally brought down by a disastrous social media marketing campaign that showed share bikes riding into Tiananmen Square on the anniversary of the June 1989 protests there.

The company insisted the campaign was not meant to be provocative and the timing was an accident.

Besides the social media backlash, the campaign led to Chinese authorities descending on the headquarters of Bluegogo and SpeedX and staying there for days.

"In May 2017, SpeedX and Bluegogo were at the zenith of their industry — a company of more than 500 staff, valued at more than $150 million, with an attractive high-end road bike on the way, a fleet of 800,000 sharebikes, and 20 million registered users," Treloar wrote.

"Within six months, it was all gone."

While SpeedX delivered its Leopard bike, a second model, the Unicorn, was never delivered, leaving hundreds of supporters out of luck. "Every backer of the SpeedX Unicorn lost every last dollar they’d put in – sums that varied depending on the spec that they’d pledged for," the article reads.

When SpeedX and Bluegogo went bankrupt, they owed about $30 million to vendors including bike factories.

The full story is at CyclingTips.com.

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