Speed Reads

when it rains, it pours

This umbrella-sharing startup fared exactly how you'd expect

To be added to the list of things that sound like good ideas but definitely do not work: umbrella sharing.

Sharing E Umbrella, a Chinese company that modeled its umbrella-sharing concept after the country's successful bike-sharing programs, is learning that the hard way. For a 19 yuan deposit, or about $2.80, the company allows customers to use their smartphones to check out an umbrella and pay less than a nickel for each half hour of use.

But as anyone who has ever tried not to lose an umbrella might have suspected from the start, the company lost almost all of its 300,000 umbrellas in just weeks, Shanghaiist reports:

While Sharing E Umbrella gave out their umbrellas at train and bus stops, they soon realized that getting users to return the umbrellas would be a problem. "Umbrellas are different from bicycles," [CEO Zhao Shuping] said. "Bikes can be parked anywhere, but with an umbrella you need railings or a fence to hang it on."

The [South China Morning Post] reports that Zhao concluded that the safest place for an umbrella would be at the customer's home, where it would be safe and undamaged. But, apparently, customers have skipped the final step of then returning the umbrellas, simply keeping them for themselves. [Shanghaiist]

Additionally, there are problems with running a rain-fueled business. Chief among them: What happens when it isn't raining? Moreover, Shanghaiist reasonably points out that "in regions with frequent rain, people are more likely to just buy their own umbrellas," which eats up Sharing E Umbrella's ideal user base.

Zhao doesn't plan to give up just yet, though. Shanghaiist adds he plans to release 30 million more umbrellas before the end of the year.