GoBee Bike throws in the towel in France

Bike-sharing startup GoBee Bike is giving up and shutting down in all French cities where it operates. GoBee Bike operates just like Chinese giants Ofo and Mobike. You open the app, you find a bike on the map and you unlock it by scanning a QR code. Once you’re done, you lock it again and leave it there — there’s no dock.

And yet, the startup is blaming vandalism and says that the service would stop immediately. It’s worth noting that users will get a refund on their remaining balances and €15 deposit. This is a nice gesture.

According to the announcement, GoBee Bike managed to attract 150,000 users in Europe who used the service hundreds of thousands of times. But the company’s bikes slowly became unusable. 3,200 bikes became dysfunctional, 1,000 bikes were illegally parked in someone’s home. Overall, GoBee Bike had to send someone in 6,500 cases.

The startup couldn’t keep up and it became clear that the business model wasn’t scalable if you needed to fix the bikes all the time. As a user, it also felt like you couldn’t unlock most of the bikes because the lock battery was dead most of the time.

GoBee Bike first announced that it would stop operating in Brussels, Lille and Reims. The startup also exited the Italian market. And now, users in Paris and Lyon can’t access the service either. The company is still operating in its home city Hong Kong.

In Paris in particular, there were four different free-floating bike companies — Ofo, Mobike, Obike and GoBee Bike. GoBee Bike is clearly underfunded compared to those giants. According to CrunchBase, GoBee Bike has raised $9 million. Ofo and Mobike have raised over $2 billion combined.

And you can feel it as a user. While Ofo has been operating in Paris since mid-December, all rides have been free for the past two and half months. Mobike has been around for a month and rides are free as well. Even Obike gave you 50 free rides when you signed up.

It’s hard to compete with free.