About time too? Ofo founder’s US coffee break is broken

Two About Time shops in New York City are closed and there is no more money in the coffee pot.

Photo from CFP

Photo from CFP

By LI Jingya


About Time Coffee, the new venture project of DAI Wei, the founder of bygone bike-sharing firm Ofo, has – to very little surprise - stopped expansion in the US.

Two of About Time Coffee’s shops in New York City have been closed for more than two months. Four more are still spluttering along. Several sources close to the matter told Jiemian News Monday that there was no more money in the coffee pot.

“About Time Coffee had a simple strategy,” a source said, but it is not going well. The whole team is sitting back.”

Jiemian News has previously reported that About Time Coffee had received funds from Chinese VCs including ZhenFund and IDG Capital and was seeking a new financing round to push the valuation of the café chain to US$200 million (1.4 billion yuan).

That’s a lot of money for four pretty ordinary shops in a city where coffee shops are more common than parking spaces.

Although Dai claims to have started the venture, he is merely a minor shareholder. Marian Chen, CEO of About Time Coffee, said Dai plays no part in the operations of the company but connected the coffee chain with investors.

Dai has kept a low profile for good reason. His first venture, Ofo, still owes more than 10 million users over a billion yuan. The bike-sharing firm ran out of cash in 2017 and raided the customer-deposit fund. In 2020, Ofo deserted its offices and disappeared.

Dai is on a Chinese government blacklist but seems to be living it up in the Big Apple rather than paying back money embezzled from share-bikers.

While the public in China still holds grudges against Dai, About Time Coffee’s reception in the US was not that bad.

Its Instagram account has more than 14,000 followers, each post is “liked” for more than 50 times. Videos tagged “abouttimecoffee” have been played on Tik Tok more than 2.5 million times.