Dai Wei’s entrepreneurship will play “True Returns”

About Time Coffee has been established for one year and has completed a round of strategic financing. Compared with ofo, which is speeding up, it is very restrained.


arts|Reporter of “Chinese Entrepreneur”Deng Shuanglin
edit|Li Wei

Headshot photography|Deng Pan

Dai Wei obviously didn’t want to be remembered.

The last time he appeared in public view was in December 2018. At that time, the ofo building was about to collapse, and Dai Wei stood up and insisted, “Ofo may be acquired or merged, but it is impossible to go bankrupt.”

However, ofo’s funds were quickly depleted, tens of millions of users’ deposits were frozen in their accounts, and a large number of yellow bicycles were piled up on the streets like garbage. Facing the overwhelming voices of pursuit, Dai Wei, unable to solve it, chose to remain silent, and has been quietly hiding for several years since then.

But Dai Wei is not willing to be completely forgotten. After graduating from Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, catching up with the dividends of the Internet and mass entrepreneurship and innovation, ofo’s valuation reached nearly 10 billion in just three years after its founding. This post-90s star entrepreneur once had a bright future. No one can accept the drop from the altar overnight.

Unwilling to be reconciled, Dai Wei quietly tossed about again. However, this time he chose the United States as the location.

Last February, a small coffee shop with a red neon sign opened in New York’s Gramercy Park, one of New York’s most laid-back neighborhoods. Soon, the coffee shop called About Time Coffee opened four more chain stores in downtown Manhattan.

Recently, Dai Wei, the founder behind About Time Coffee, surfaced. The 1.5 billion deposit has not been refunded, and the entrepreneur went to the United States to sell coffee again.

However, Dai Wei is not the CEO of About Time Coffee. Its CEO is a Chinese woman named Marian Chen. She revealed to the media that although Dai Wei is not involved in daily operations, he is actually the “builder” behind About Time Coffee, helping to form a team and arrange meetings with investors, “He is the one who sticks us together “.

Dai Wei did help introduce many large Chinese venture capitals, including IDG Capital, ZhenFund, and Weihun Capital.Zhenge and Wei Lie have a close relationship with Dai Wei himself, both of whom are old shareholders of ofo, and Dai Wei himself is the LP (limited partner) of one of Wei Lie Capital’s funds.

Industry insiders analyzed to “Chinese Entrepreneur”,Dai Wei’s new entrepreneurial project is likely to leave equity to the old shareholders as compensation, “just like Luo Yonghao’s thin red line,Compared with the project, VCs value Dai Wei more.” China Entrepreneur asked ZhenFund for confirmation, but has not received a reply yet. IDG also declined to comment on why it chose to invest in Dai Wei.

Of course, Dai Wei doesn’t just want to be an ordinary community cafe. Cutting apart the core of About Time Coffee, it is actually a start-up company driven by technology. From the perspective of the model, users can place orders for their favorite categories in advance on the APP. Like Luckin.

However, for this venture, Dai Wei is extremely low-key. His circle of friends has not posted any content related to About Time Coffee or even coffee in the past three months, but forwarded two messages related to ChatGPT.

Source: Screenshot of Dai Wei’s circle of friends

Copy the “Luckin Model” to the United States

Perhaps Dai Wei is not good at selling coffee, butPlaying traffic portals is the field he is most familiar with.

Although About Time Coffee was born in the United States, its pricing strategy, target consumer group, and marketing strategy are all familiar to Chinese people——

The price of About Time Coffee focuses on high cost performance, with a unit price between US$3 and US$7, which is lower than that of Starbucks; in terms of products, it focuses on innovative products such as pearl coffee and taro coffee, with a taste between coffee and milk tea; the takeaway packaging uses A unique airtight can. It can be seen that its main target group is young consumers.

There are cafes everywhere in the United States, but there are not many coffee brands in chain operation, and even fewer brands have their own APP and online ordering system.

In the United States, it is not a flattering thing to do online. Many Americans still prefer to pay with cash and credit cards.So About Time Coffee relies on real money subsidies to boost app downloads, sends SMS promotions to the public, and writes on the billboard at the door: “Register the app to place an order online, and we will invite the first five cups.”

“Chinese Entrepreneur” searched on Instagram and found that the account of About Time Coffee has 14,000 fans, and some young Americans are sharing About Time Coffee’s coffee on their social accounts.

It also drives business with online technology, replaces users with subsidies, and introduces innovative coffee that is more suitable for young people’s tastes to leverage new consumer groups. To describe it in a popular saying,About Time Coffee seems to be Luckin “more suitable for Americans”.

Marian Chen also confirmed this point to the media: “We have a mature model from China. The coffee we sell tastes better than Starbucks, but it is cheaper than Starbucks.”

However, whether About Time Coffee can replicate Ruixing’s success in China still has a question mark, and its biggest challenge is how to change the habits of Americans.

In the United States, mobile payment currently only accounts for 15% of the total sales of chain stores. It is very difficult to turn the payment habit of Americans into APP orders. This makes it easy for a coffee shop that hopes to drive business with online technology to become an ordinary traditional coffee shop.

In addition, if you want to do it on a large scale, you must consider the population distribution and market concentration in the United States; if you do not do it on a large scale, it will be difficult to tell a good story to the capital market. also,Ofo’s historical issues may also affect About Time Coffee’s future financing and user trust.

Dai Wei, who is good at exchanging subsidies for traffic and stories for imagination, may not be able to understand profitability.

Photography: Deng Pan


Can it make a comeback?

After news of Dai Wei’s start-up again spread to China,,The anger of users queuing up to get their deposits refunded is ignited again.existofounder the official Weibo,Many users questioned:“My deposit has not been refunded,Your boss took the money to treat Americans to coffee?

According to “Chinese Entrepreneur”, more than 16 million people are still waiting in line for ofo to refund their deposits. The deposits are divided into two levels: 99 yuan and 199 yuan.Even if it is calculated at 99 yuan per person, the deposit to be refunded is as high as 1.5 billion yuan.

Five years ago, ofo’s headquarters building was full of users who came to defend their rights, but this move had no real effect, because ofo had no assets to enforce. Now, after Dai Wei’s new entrepreneurial project surfaced, users have turned their guns on him again—as an “old Lai”, why can Dai Wei go abroad to start a business?

According to the risk information of Qichacha, since August 2018, Dai Weilu has successively received 40 consumption restriction orders, involving a total amount of 60.35 million yuan. According to the consumption restriction order recently issued by the People’s Court of Haidian District, Beijing, Dai Wei is restricted from choosing a second-class or higher cabin on airplanes, soft sleepers on trains, and ships when taking transportation.

“Chinese Entrepreneur” learned that limiting high consumption and being listed as a dishonest person subject to enforcement are two concepts. At present, Dai Wei is only “limited” because of the large number of enforcement cases of ofo company, and has not yet been listed as a dishonest person subject to enforcement. He can go to the United States by third-class ship, or someone else’s private plane.

The past few years when Dai Wei has been silent in the public eye has not been idle. The media quoted people familiar with the matter as saying,Dai Wei has been working between China and the United States,First, a charging treasure rental start-up company was opened in Seattle, but the effect was not very good. Then he co-founded the About Time Coffee coffee chain in New York.

According to Qichacha data, among the 12 companies under Dai Wei’s name, 7 are still in existence, and 5 of them are affiliated companies of ofo. However, Dai Wei only served as the legal representative of 2 companies, and served as the chairman, executive director, and manager of 4 companies.

In addition to holding shares in Beijing Backlock Technology Co., Ltd. and Beijing Backlock Technology Service Co., Ltd., Dai Wei also holds shares in Ningbo Weilie Investment Management Partnership (Limited Partnership) and Beijing Roaming Star Technology Co., Ltd. 2.12%, 4.3%.

It is worth mentioning that Xiao Changxing of Wei Lie Capital is Dai Wei’s senior brother in Beijing and an angel investor of ofo. According to the Science and Technology Innovation Board Daily, an insider of ZhenFund said that About Time Coffee was “directly invested by the boss”.

Maybe Dai Wei still wants to make a comeback with capital games. But now 32-year-old Dai Wei is more cautious than the 23-year-old who founded ofo.

In the past, Dai Wei enjoyed the feeling of acceleration very much. “In the early stages of a company, expansion is more important than defense,” he said in an interview in 2016. “The faster you spend money, the more efficient you are, the more money you raise, the stronger you are, and then you control the market.”

About Time Coffee has been established for one year, opened 5 stores, and completed a round of strategic financing.This is very restrained compared with the accelerated ofo.It is understood that About Time Coffee has no plans to open more stores or raise funds. Its focus is to try new beverages and achieve profitability.

Perhaps during these five years of silence, Dai Wei is also learning how to wash away the utilitarianism and impetuosity brought about by the times.

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