June 23, 2017

In China, Umbrellas and Basketballs Join the Sharing Economy

China satellite
By NASA (NASA Worldwind) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

China may be oversharing.

First, a brutal and costly ride-hailing war drove Uber out of the country. Then a boom in bike-sharing blanketed city streets with unused bicycles .

Today, Chinese start-ups want to share umbrellas, concrete mixers and mobile phone power banks. One wants to share basketballs.

As Chinese entrepreneurs and investors pile in, some skeptical industry insiders are wondering: Has China reached “peak sharing?”

“After all these years, China is finally embracing its communist roots,” said Andy Tian, an entrepreneur and co-founder of Asia Innovations Group in Beijing. “That’s the essence of communism: communal sharing.”

“But there’s no question that it’s a bubble,” he added. “It may have roots in something valuable, but can you really share everything?”Chinese entrepreneurs like Xu Min think that, quite possibly, you can. In March, the 30-year-old serial entrepreneur from Jiaxing, a town in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, came up with the idea of a basketball-sharing service after he heard some friends complain about the inconvenience of carrying a ball around.Just four days later, Mr. Xu set up Zhulegeqiu, which in Chinese is a pun that roughly means “Rent a Ball.” It lets users rent basketballs from custom-designed automated lockers at basketball courts […]

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