Dai Wei, a Chinese entrepreneur known as the founder of the once-failed Ofo bike, is now expanding his business opportunities in New York City.
His coffee store, About Time Coffee, has spawned new outlets in prime locations in downtown Manhattan.
About Time Coffee has gained popularity on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, and it has also been recommended by some influencers:
no longer a Starbucks girl 😌 #coffee #tea #starbucks #abouttimecoffee #ncy #nyceats #nyccafe #nyccoffee #nycrestaurants #nyceats #nycfood #bubbletea #boba #fall
The first outlet of About Time was launched in Gramercy Park as early as February last year. Investors, including ZhenFund and IDG Capital’s Chinese arm, have shown confidence in Mr. Dai’s new business venture in New York.
Investors seem to have looked past Mr Dai’s previous failure with Ofo, as he secured funding from supporters, including Beijing-based Will Hunting Capital, an early backer of the bike-sharing start-up.
According to Bloomberg, About Time has raised over US$10 million (S$13.4 million) with a valuation of US$40 million.
The coffee brand aims to offer a better-tasting alternative to Starbucks at competitive prices, based on a successful model from China.
Marian Chen, the CEO of About Time, stated in an interview with Bloomberg that although Mr Dai is not involved in the day-to-day operations of About Time, he played a crucial role in building the team and arranging meetings with investors.
Despite being a minority shareholder, Mr Dai declined an interview request with Bloomberg.
Ofo faced suspension by LTA in 2019
Born in Huainan, Anhui, in 1991, Dai Wei attended Peking University in China, where he studied Computer Science and served as the President of Peking University Students’ Union.
He later pursued an MBA from Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management.
In September 2015, Dai Wei co-founded Ofo along with Zhang Siding and Xue Dong. Ofo aimed to revolutionize urban transportation through a dockless bike-sharing system, quickly gaining popularity and becoming one of China’s leading bike-sharing startups.
Under Dai Wei’s leadership as the CEO, Ofo expanded its operations to over 250 cities across 21 countries and achieved a valuation of nearly $3 billion.
However, rapid expansion, aggressive global strategy, financial difficulties, intense competition, regulatory challenges, and operational inefficiencies ultimately led to Ofo’s downfall.
The company heavily relied on user deposits and advertising as primary revenue streams, which proved unsustainable, necessitating a more robust and viable business model.
In December 2018, Ofo faced backlash from over 13 million users in China demanding refunds for their deposits, while Dai Wei himself found his name on an official blacklist due to loan defaults.
In 2019, Ofo’s license to operate in Singapore was cancelled by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for failure to meet regulatory requirements, including a QR code-based parking system to manage bicycle parking within specific areas.
Users had to pay a deposit of S$49 before they used Ofo’s services, and it was reported that S$8.9 million of deposits were owed when the company ceased its services in Singapore.