German micromobility startup Tier is in late-stage acquisition talks with European rival Bolt, Sifted has learnt. The deal comes amid a wave of consolidation sweeping the micromobility sector as growth capital remains hard to come by and businesses remain expensive to run.
Tallinn-based Bolt is currently doing due diligence on Tier, and a valuation is yet to be agreed upon, Sifted understands. The deal could be closed within weeks.
The deal comes after Tier raised a convertible note from “the majority” of its existing investors, Sifted reported on Tuesday. The company’s investors include Speedinvest, Northzone, Mubadala Capital, Goldman Sachs and SoftBank.
The Berlin-based startup had also been in talks with US competitor Lime about an acquisition, but those have ended, a source close to the company tells Sifted.
Mergers are coming
Investors and operators in micromobility tell Sifted they think the next six months will see plenty of mergers and acquisitions.
Europe is dominated by four big home-grown players — Tier, Bolt, Swedish Voi and Dutch Dott — and two US companies, Bird and Lime. There are also many smaller local operators, like Pony in France, Beryl in the UK and Ryde in the Nordics.
Tier, which operates e-scooters and e-bikes in 560 cities around the world, has had a bruising year. It’s sitting on more than €130m in debt, according to one source close to the company, while still posting high losses. It's been through several rounds of layoffs, letting go of 180 people in August 2022 and another 100 in January 2023.
It's also coming up against an increasingly unfriendly political climate: one of its big markets is Paris, which voted to ban rental e-scooters a month ago. Tier currently has a licence to operate 5,000 of them in Paris, which it will have to remove by the end of August. Earlier this year, Tier lost a tender in Oslo, and it was excluded from the tender in Vienna last month too.
Many of its competitors are also struggling. Bird, which listed at a $2.3bn valuation in 2021, has lost over 90% of its value, while Voi’s valuation has been marked down by 57% since 2021 by its investor VNV Global. That suggests Tier would be highly unlikely to sell for the €2bn valuation it attracted from investors in 2021.
Tier’s last official fundraise was in October 2021, raising $200m in a Series D from investors including SoftBank, M&G Investments and Mubadala Capital. According to the company, it’s raised an additional €200m since then.
But Tier has also been on an acquisition spree, which will have eaten into a big chunk of the funding. It’s acquired US computer vision startup Fantasmo, Budapest-based tech agency Makery, the Italian subsidiary of shared e-scooter rival Wind Mobility, Vento Mobility, and the German bike-sharing platform Nextbike. In 2022 it also acquired the formerly Ford-owned shared electric bike and scooter startup Spin to enter the North American market.
Why buy Tier?
Bolt tells Sifted it’s on track to be profitable within the next 12 months and plans to IPO in 2025.
It overlaps with Tier in several markets — but few big ones. Bolt doesn't have micromobility operations in the US or France, but does have a presence in smaller markets where Tier doesn’t operate, like Georgia, Estonia, Lithuania and Romania.
Acquiring Tier would enable it to expand into several key geographies. It would also be its first acquisition in the micromobility sector.
Tier and Bolt say they do not comment on rumours or speculation in the market.