Bolt raises US$182M to expand its on-demand transportation network

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Bolt, which covers 200 cities in 40 countries with its delivery and transportation services, has raised €150 million ($182 million at current rates) in an equity round that CEO and co-founder Markus Villig said in an interview will be used to double down on geographic expansion and to help it become the biggest provider of electric scooters in Europe.

Bolt currently has some 50 million customers using its services, and Villig has built the business around two main areas to differentiate it from the Ubers of the world: strong capital efficiency (or “frugality” as he describes it) and putting a heavy emphasis on services for emerging markets, alongside launches in cities like London and Paris and, soon, Berlin.

“This round was the first time we raised with most of the previous round still in the bank, despite the pressures of Covid” he said. “This shows the frugality of the company. Due to lockdowns, we were not as aggressive as we would have liked to be, so financially we are now in a very good position for 2021.”

The round led by D1 Capital Partners with participation also from Darsana Capital Partners. D1 has this year been a huge player in growth rounds for some of the very biggest startups: it has made investments in eyewear giant Warby Parker, gaming engine maker Unity, car sales portal Cazoo, and fintech TransferWise, collectively with valuations into the multiple billions of dollars.

On that note, Villig wouldn’t disclose what Bolt’s valuation is but said that it was closer to the multiples of 1.5x on gross merchandise value (GMV: the total figure transacted on Bolt’s platform), a la the recently listed DoorDash, than it is closer to “others” in the transport space that are seeing valuations closer to 0.5x GMV.

He also confirmed to me that Bolt is doing about €2 billion in GMV currently annually, which would give it a valuation, by his hinted calculations, of €3.5 billion ($4.3 billion). No comment from Villig on my number crunching, but he also didn’t dispute it.

The company’s rise has been an interesting counterpoint to the likes of Uber, which built its business with early, aggressive — and as it turned out, very costly — growth into multiple markets and product areas, a number of which it has more recently been divesting (see also herehere and here for other examples).

 

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