Bolt’s services now include ride hailing, car sharing, electric scooters and food delivery. The company has said that its expanding range of consumer and transport services qualifies it as Europe’s first ‘super-app’.
Bolt raised funds from new investors Sequoia, Tekne and Ghisallo, as well as existing backers G Squared, G1 Capital and Naya.
Aiming to become one of the largest tech companies in Europe
“We might have decreased the number of old-school taxi call-centres − meaning dispatchers and taxi company owners − but we have given tens of thousands of drivers an opportunity to offer their services on our platform,” Markus Villig, co-founder of Bolt has told Life in Estonia magazine how Bolt has disrupted the taxi market.
In 2012, Markus’s brother and other co-founder of Bolt, Martin Villig, was organising an event in Kyiv, Ukraine, and tried getting a taxi online, which turned out to be quite a hassle. He then came up with the idea of how to make ride-sharing much easier.
Markus picked the idea up and plunged into it. According to his own account, he discovered he had a lot of time on his hands during his high school final exams, so he decided to build a platform to ‘get this taxi business in order in Tallinn’. There were 30+ taxi companies in Tallinn at the time, all operating old school call centers, with an operator, often misogynistically referred to as ‘a Kitty‘, mediating the rides.
The early start was quite promising. Markus did a Google Docs survey in his school to which he received 600 answers, 90% out of which responded that there is an acute need for a new taxi platform. Nobody had even heard of Uber yet.
Markus started going through the taxi stops and things started going a bit astray: “Of course I had no platform to show yet and being a 19-year-old kid disturbing the drivers from reading their newspaper…” 8 out of 10 taxi drivers would yell at him to get the hell out of their cars. Also, he soon realised that his initial budget of 200 euros was simply not feasible to actually develop an online platform. A developer he had found ‘somewhere from the city’ was asking for 7,000 euros just for a prototype…
The bumpy road continued, finally taking the company to a unicorn status, widening its range of services to new areas and creating – as the company has put it – Europe’s first ‘super-app’. “My ambition from the very beginning has been building one of the biggest technology companies in Europe,” Markus Villig was not shy to announce after the big announcement was finally made. And Bolt’s ambition does not stop there – be it in making the services more user-friendly, safe to use and provide, or sustainable.
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