You can barely walk five minutes in any direction in either Melbourne or Sydney nowadays without seeing a yellow oBike. They’re everywhere — dumped on footpaths, stacked one on top of the other in parks like works of conceptual art, and even sitting at the bottom of rivers.
The latest update is that they can now also be found inside a giant crusher after the City of Melbourne revealed it has started collecting the abandoned pushies from the city’s streets and converting them into scrap metal.
As far as new product launches go, it hasn’t been the smoothest I have ever seen. I don’t know how the Singapore-based company has gone with rolling the bikes out in other markets but they certainly failed to predict how Aussies would interact with their innovation.
Perhaps the better-behaved people of Singapore wouldn’t dream of chucking bikes up into trees or perching them on the roofs of parked cars. However, larrikin Aussies do — I’ve seen the photos.
Who knows whether the oBike will ultimately find a home in the Australian market. Perhaps, in time, we will learn to love them. Perhaps the company will tweak its offering to make our notoriously over-zealous councils chill out a little. Or perhaps the phenomenon will just slowly disappear.
However it ends up, I must say that I love the oBike and I have never even ridden one.
Why? Because the company has provided us all with an amazing view of innovation in action and the challenges that entrepreneurs face.
Countless startup products and services are launched every single day by people trying to add something to the world that will enrich our lives. They have all had that momentary flash of insight that has compelled them to invest time and money to bring their idea to market.
Every founder — myself included in a past life — has had their product metaphorically chucked up a tree, abandoned upside-down on the footpath and tethered midway up an electricity pole. We’ve all struggled to achieve that mythical product-market fit.
We’ve all tried to listen to and learn from the market’s reaction to our product and to twist it and turn it into something that the market will ultimately accept before our funding and confidence run out.
It’s a hard road.
For most people, it’s a battle waged pretty much in the background. It’s a broadly invisible struggle that very few people outside of your startup see. It barely exists publicly except for a line item on your LinkedIn profile and maybe a PR release that was picked up somewhere online.
These guys have lived that struggle on the streets of Melbourne and Sydney for all to see. They have been kicked by councils and talk-back callers. They have been publicly laughed at and yelled at as they have tried bringing a new, environmentally-friendly spin on personal transport to market.
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I admire their vision, their courage and tenacity. I empathise with their struggles and wish them every success. And I want to thank them for giving all of us a front row seat for what countless others merely talk about — innovation.