Executive Briefings

Forget Car-Sharing. In China, You Can Rent Umbrellas, Basketballs, Washers - for a Fee.

Sometimes, when considering the orgy of spending that is China's start-up scene, it's fun to imagine the pitch meetings.

"It's like Uber, but for beds."

"Bed sharing?"

"I know it sounds funny but -- "

"Take my cash."

That exact exchange did not happen. But it may not be far off. Chinese authorities recently shuttered a service that let people pay to sleep in windowless pods. There were questions about hygiene, according to local reports.

Perhaps there should be more questions. Flush with cash and buoyed by a billion-dollar boom in bike sharing, China’s venture capitalists have gone sharing mad, funding companies that allow users to share items including washing machines, basketballs and umbrellas.

In some ways, the enthusiasm makes sense. China’s vibrant but tightly regulated tech sector has been booming, with sharing leading the way. Chinese ride-hailing (and -sharing) giant Didi bought out Uber China. Airbnb is fighting Chinese rivals to win a piece of the home-share market.

The country’s top leaders know they must shift from manufacturing and resource extraction to a service-based economy powered, in part, by the Web.

To help things along, the state has thrown money into the start-up scene and nurtured homegrown tech companies, in part by keeping others out. (Sorry, Google.) It has also used its vast propaganda apparatus to cheerlead for local start-ups, waxing poetic about umbrella sharing, for example.

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"It's like Uber, but for beds."

"Bed sharing?"

"I know it sounds funny but -- "

"Take my cash."

That exact exchange did not happen. But it may not be far off. Chinese authorities recently shuttered a service that let people pay to sleep in windowless pods. There were questions about hygiene, according to local reports.

Perhaps there should be more questions. Flush with cash and buoyed by a billion-dollar boom in bike sharing, China’s venture capitalists have gone sharing mad, funding companies that allow users to share items including washing machines, basketballs and umbrellas.

In some ways, the enthusiasm makes sense. China’s vibrant but tightly regulated tech sector has been booming, with sharing leading the way. Chinese ride-hailing (and -sharing) giant Didi bought out Uber China. Airbnb is fighting Chinese rivals to win a piece of the home-share market.

The country’s top leaders know they must shift from manufacturing and resource extraction to a service-based economy powered, in part, by the Web.

To help things along, the state has thrown money into the start-up scene and nurtured homegrown tech companies, in part by keeping others out. (Sorry, Google.) It has also used its vast propaganda apparatus to cheerlead for local start-ups, waxing poetic about umbrella sharing, for example.

Read Full Article