Bolt eyes Africa, Europe expansion with R1.9bn funding

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 26 May 2020
Gareth Taylor, country manager for Bolt South Africa.
Gareth Taylor, country manager for Bolt South Africa.

Ride-hailing company Bolt has closed an investment round of EUR100 million (R1.9 billion) from UK-based investment firm, Naya Capital Management.

The Uber rival, which recently told ITWeb it will not be laying off any of its employees, is preparing to scale up all of its services and product segments following the funding – from its ride-hailing arm, to micro-mobility and food delivery services in Europe and Africa.

Bolt has more than 30 million users in over 35 countries globally. Africa is its biggest market, with over half of its business worldwide coming from the seven African markets of South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda.

In January, the ride-hailing firm received over $56 million in debt financing from the European Investment Bank, which was used as an alternative to taking equity in the company.

“Even though the coronavirus 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,” says Gareth Taylor, country manager for Bolt in South Africa.

Founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Masroor Siddiqui, Naya Capital Management invests in businesses across the capital structure, managing capital on behalf of a global investor base, including pension funds, endowments and charities.

In SA, Bolt operates in up to 34 secondary towns and cities across all nine provinces, with its aggressive expansion strategy in 2019 seeing it double its operational footprint across the country in 2019 alone.

In the last months, Bolt has accelerated the expansion of its services in SA to secure more opportunities for drivers to continue earning an income during the nation-wide coronavirus-related lockdown.

These services include Bolt Business Delivery, where drivers can help essential services businesses get orders to their customers; Bolt Food, launched in Cape Town as a food delivery service once regulations were gazetted permitting food delivery; and Bolt Isolated Cars, which have physical barriers between the front and back seats, limiting the risk of exposure between driver and passengers.

“We are happy to be backed by investors that support our long-term view and don’t buy into the mindless spending that’s become so common in Silicon Valley,” notes Markus Villig, CEO and co-founder of Bolt.

“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.”

Masroor Siddiqui, managing partner and CIO of Naya Capital Management, says: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to invest in Bolt at this stage in the company’s growth story.

“Under Markus’s 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.”