Bolt, a rival to Uber and others providing on-demand ridesharing, scooters and other transportation services across some 150 cities in Europe and Africa, is today announcing another capital raise as it weathers a difficult market climate where, because of COVID-19, many are staying in place and avoiding modes of transport that put them into contact with others.
The Estonia-based company is today announcing that it has picked up an additional €100 million ($109 million) in equity funding. Bolt also confirmed that is now valued at €1.7 billion (or nearly $1.9 billion at today’s rates).
The investment is coming from a single investor, Naya Capital Management, which was also a major backer of the company in its last round, a $67 million Series C in July 2019. Technically this would make this latest round a Series D although we are checking that detail with the company.
The funding is one more example of how investors are continuing to support their most promising, and/or most capitalised, portfolio companies as they face drastic losses of business during the COVID-19 pandemic, which can only be more complicated for a startup built on a business model that — even in the best of times — is very capital-intensive.
Before this round, in April we’d been hearing that Bolt was running out of runway and that they were in discussion also with the Estonian government — a big supporter of the country’s tech industry — to underwrite debt in the company. We have also asked Bolt if it raised any debt funding and will update this as we learn more.
Bolt — which says it has 30 million users in over 35 countries globally — has now raised over €300 million, with other investors including Nordic Ninja — a new fund out of Helsinki backed by a number of Japanese LPs to invest in Northern European startups (Bolt is based out of Tallinn) — Creandum, G Squared, Invenfin (a fund out of South Africa backed by investment holding company Remgro) and Superangel, a fund out of Estonia that has been backing the startup since its earliest days, as well as Didi (and, by association, SoftBank and Uber), Daimler, Korelya Capital and Spring Capital.
Formerly known as Taxify, Bolt rebranded last year as it expanded beyond private car rides into other areas like electric scooters and food delivery — and the plan will be to use this funding to expand all three business areas in the coming months, along with newer product categories like Business Delivery in-city same-day courier services and Bolt Protect for people to continue to use its ride-hailing services by kitting out cars with plastic sheeting between driver and passenger seats.
Uber, Bolt’s publicly traded business rival, has laid bare just how painful the pandemic has been for business. The company has laid off nearly 7,000 employees in recent weeks, and while we currently have little visibility of the impact on the contractors it engages to move people, food and other items in its network, its next quarterly earnings (which will cover the full brunt of the pandemic) should more clearly spell out the drop-off in overall business.
Bolt doesn’t go into the details of that situation itself, except to acknowledge that business is not as usual.
“Even though the crisis has temporarily changed how we move, the long-term trends that drive on-demand mobility such as declining personal car ownership or the shift towards greener transportation continue to grow,” said Markus Villig, CEO and co-founder, in a statement. “We are happy to be backed by investors that look past the typical Silicon Valley hype and support our long term view. I am more confident than ever that our efficiency and localisation are a fundamental advantage in the on-demand industry. These enable us to continue offering affordable transportation to millions of customers and the best earnings for our partners in the post-COVID world.”
A lot of people have talked about how fundraising has become more complicated now. Not only are people not able to meet in person and get more embedded in evaluating an opportunity, but many are unable to see what the future will hold in terms of market demand and the overall economy.
That’s left a lot of the activity at the moment spread between startups that are seeing a lot of business lift precisely because of present circumstances; startups that have businesses that are continuing to enjoy a lot of trade despite present circumstances; and startups that are strong enough (or already so highly capitalised) that investors want to support them to make sure they don’t go under. More typically, startups that are securing funding are falling into more than one of the above categories, as is the case with Bolt.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to invest in Bolt at this stage in the company’s growth story,” Masroor Siddiqui, managing partner, CIO and founder of Naya Capital Management, said in a statement. “Under Markus’ leadership, Bolt has established itself as one of the most competitive and innovative players in global mobility. We believe that Bolt is helping drive a fundamental change in how consumers interact with the transport infrastructure of their cities and look forward to the company’s continued execution on its strategic vision.”