ofo is known for being the first station-free bike sharing platform in the world and for their eye-catching yellow bikes. The company’s history and the story behind their brand name starts in Beijing.
In 2014, 5 members of a cycling club at Peking University got together and brainstormed how best to share their love of cycling throughout the country and the rest of the world.
The company began as a truly grassroots organization. ofo’s founders compiled a private registry of 2,000 bicyclers at Peking University which allowed people in the registry to access bike’s all across campus through their smart phones. The founders soon realized they had a hit on their hands when after 3 months, the program had spread to 5 other university campuses.
Image source: 0fo
What makes ofo really special is the company’s commitment to the environment. According to their website, in Shanghai, car trips for less than three miles dropped by 44% since ofo’s inception there. Also, ofo claims that “on average, ofo users ride over 5 million miles each day in over 250 cities worldwide. In the first quarter of 2017 alone, the reduction in carbon emissions due to their riding was equivalent to the absorption rate of a forest three-quarters the size of the state of Rhode Island.”
Last year, in an interview with Slush, co-founder Dai Wei expanded on their environmentally-focused mission, “ofo aims to solve the last mile problem for urbanites. It’s a mission which also targets environmental issues. As the business develops and evolves, we are doing a lot to explore deeper into solving issues regarding climate change, pollution, and other environmental challenges.”
They’ve also recently teamed up with Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde to create a bicycle that will actually absorb and clean polluted air as it moves through the city. They’re calling this a “smog-free” bike and hope to get them out on the roads soon.
Why is it called ofo?
The founders of ofo had their mind set on the company becoming global right from the start, so they wanted a name that could be accessible to people from all over the world regardless of their language or culture. There is also a distinct visual element to the brand name. According to Tom Sarris, the Associate Director of Communications for ofo, “It was felt that the name should identify as both a word and an object. The two ‘o’s in ‘ofo’ were chosen because they looked like bike tires, then other letters were considered between each ‘o’ to resemble handlebars. The letter ‘p’ was first considered, but when capitalized between the two ‘o’s the word looked like a car. So, a lowercase ‘f’ was chosen because the crossbar in the letter ‘f’ resembles handlebars on a bicycle.”
Image source: Interbrand
This brilliant attention to detail along with ofo’s commitment to becoming a globally accepted brand has allowed them to become the foremost bike-sharing company in the world with bikes in 17 countries including the US, Russia, Israel, the Netherlands and Kazakhstan. These kinds of globally-aware, environmentally-focused companies are exactly what we need as a society. Other brands could do themselves a favor by looking to this transportation innovator as a model for business success and positive social dedication. Have you tried ofo before? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
Travis McDonald is a professional freelance writer who creates content for a wide variety of clients. He received his bachelor’s in English from The University of Texas at Austin and his MFA in creative writing from Virginia Tech.