November 5, 2019

Exclusive: Uber-rival Bolt held talks with SoftBank

SoftBank has used its $97bn Vision Fund to back companies like WeWork, Uber, and Improbable. Could Bolt be next?

Sam Shead

1 min read

Markus Villig, the Estonian chief executive and cofounder of Uber-rival Bolt, confirmed on Tuesday that he has spoken with SoftBank about a new round of funding.

Villig, Europe's youngest founder of a €1bn company, told Sifted that conversations with the Japanese tech behemoth came about thanks to Chinese taxi app DiDi.

“DiDi is one of our investors, so from there we’ve had some talks with them [SoftBank],” the 25-year-old said in an interview at Web Summit on Tuesday.


Founded in 2013 in Estonia's capital Tallinn, Bolt has raised $244m (€220m) from investors.

The company has expanded quickly to 35 countries and introduced four products onto its platform: car ride-hailing, motorbike taxis, electric scooters and food delivery. But scaling all these products won't come cheap.

Bolt could potentially announce a new round of funding in the next six months, according to Villig: “That's actually largely going to be dependent on how the new products go. We expect we can roll those out pretty cost-effectively, but if we see there's really, really great potential there then we might be more aggressive and raise funding.”

Asked how big Bolt's next funding round might be, Villig said it would “probably” be similar to the company's last round — Bolt raised €60.5m in July. While talks were held with SoftBank, no deal has been reached on investment. SoftBank declined to comment.

More money than sense?

Through its Vision Fund, launched in 2017, SoftBank has pumped over €67bn into 88 tech firms.

But the fund has come under scrutiny after a number of its biggest bets, namely WeWork and Uber, lost billions of dollars in value in a matter of weeks. Masayoshi Son, the Japanese billionaire at the helm of SoftBank, says that his gut guides him when it comes to deal-making.