If you’re caught in a downpour in China, you can rent an umbrella to keep you dry. If you’re looking for a game of pickup basketball, you can rent the ball. And now you can rent batteries to charge your smartphone, ensuring you’re no longer stranded far from home with a dead device. Millions of Chinese are using these services to recharge at cafes and bars, or picking up portable battery packs at subway stops and airports.
Venture capitalists are following. Since March, VCs such as Sequoia Capital China and IDG Capital have invested at least $145 million into 22 battery rental startups, part of a sharing economy boom that has echoes of the investment frenzy into bike sharing and on-demand services.