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Ofo, Pioneer of China’s Bike-Sharing Boom, Is in a Crisis

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Financial pressure started building as well. As long as new riders kept signing up, cash kept flowing in the form of deposits. But it has been expensive for the companies to replace damaged stock, and to hire workers to haul bikes all day from low- to high-demand locations.

In April, Mobike was acquired by Meituan-Dianping, a food-delivery giant whose financial resources could help it continue to subsidize cheap bike trips. But Ofo has had trouble lately raising money from investors, Mr. Dai said in his letter this week. The company withdrew from several overseas markets, including the United States, this year just months after entering them.

Mr. Dai, who said just last year that Ofo had ballooned to more than $2 billion in value, was recently added to an official blacklist of credit defaulters. According to a government database, he and Ofo’s parent company owe a total of $7.8 million related to various contract disputes. Being on the list means Mr. Dai can be blocked from booking fancy hotels or flying first class.

Ofo’s bikes still have their fans in China. Bi Wenwen, a 38-year-old entrepreneur in Shanghai, applied for a deposit refund in November. She does not expect to receive it, but she said she would still use Ofo in the meantime.

“It provides a lot of convenience,” Ms. Bi said.

Wang Jinzhi applied for a refund from Ofo two weeks ago. But he has already lost all confidence in the sharing economy.

Mr. Wang, a 28-year-old financial analyst in Beijing, lost the $500 deposit he paid a high-end car-sharing company after the company folded. He also failed to get his deposit back from Bluegogo, another bike-rental start-up.

“Actually, I didn’t have much confidence right from the beginning,” Mr. Wang said, about the sharing economy. “So many similar companies fighting against one another.”

In the end, he bought his own bike.

Elsie Chen, Albee Zhang and Zoe Mou contributed research.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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