By Jon Russel
Dock-less bike rental company Mobike is teaming up with messaging app firm Line to boost its presence in Japan.
Line, which is Japan’s most popular messaging app with 71 million users in the country, is making an undisclosed investment in Mobike Japan, the Chinese firm’s entity in the country. The deal will see the Mobike service integrated into the Line app the same way that it is with WeChat in China.
Line, which raised $1 billion last year from a dual U.S.-Japan listing, will own less than 20 percent of Mobike Japan, the two companies said.
The integration will allow Line users to rent a Mobike bike inside the chat app, simply by scanning the bike’s QR code and paying via their Line Pay account or other payment methods.
“LINE is the clear leader in Japan’s social media space, with a strong culture of innovation and creativity, and therefore, is the perfect partner to support our ambitious growth plans in Japan,” Hu Weiwei, Founder and President of Mobike, said in a statement. “Working together with LINE, we will be able to provide tens of millions of LINE users with a seamless and localized experience for finding, unlocking and paying for bikes with the LINE app.”
Mobike moved into Japan in August as part of an ambitious global plan aimed at taking the service to 200 cities worldwide before the end of this year. Rival Ofo, which has a similar expansion target, entered the Japanese market in August, too, through a partnership with SoftBank.
Valued at more than $1 billion, Mobike is estimated to have raised over $1 billion. Some its funding has been undisclosed, but its most recent financing was a massive $600 million raise led by Tencent with Sequoia, TPG, and Hillhouse Capital and others. Weeks later, Ofo pulled in $700 million led by Alibaba — it too has raised over $1 billion and valuations that exceed the $1 billion unicorn mark.
Despite the duo’s ambitious aims to globalize their services, a number of localized rivals have popped up across the world, including LimeBike in the U.S. and oBike in Asia.