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10 July 2017

Umbrella-sharing startup fails to predict people would steal all their umbrellas

Yes, even the most honest person on the planet will jack your umbrella, and now we have proof. Sort of. 

It was a noble idea: Bring the same innovation that has made bike-sharing an international success story to all the businesspeople and commuters who need an umbrella when unexpectedly caught in the rain. 

But what China-based startup E-Umbrella didn’t count on is the fact that, unlike shared bikes, when someone gets a hold of a good umbrella, they don’t really want to let go. According to a report from Caixin Global, the company lost a whopping 30,000 umbrellas after just a few days.

Back in May, the company had a plan to roll out 30 million E-Umbrella’s in China and in other countries, according to the Straits Times, but this recent turn may force a major rethink of the overall strategy. 

The system works by allowing a user to download a smartphone app that then allows them to use a QR code to unlock the umbrella, which has a combination lock on its handle. To use the umbrellas, users pay a 19 yuan deposit (about three dollars), and are charged 0.5 yuan per half-hour of use.

However, while securing one of the rainbow-colored, smartphone-enabled umbrellas was a breeze, the Straits Times says unclear instructions on how to return the umbrellas resulted in many users keeping them.

So yeah, the company needs a more reliable system. (It’s unclear what, if any, the penalty price is for not returning the umbrellas.) 

Despite the setback, the company plans to continue rolling out more E-Umbrellas throughout China, presumably with a better means of avoiding more mass umbrella jackings.  

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