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Bolt raises $709M at an $8.4B valuation to expand its transportation and food delivery super app

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Bolt raises $709M at an $8.4B valuation to expand its transportation and food delivery super app

Economies of scale are an essential cornerstone for on-demand companies, and to that end one of the hopefuls in the space has raised a big round to grow its business. Bolt — the startup and app of the same name that operates on-demand ride hailing, shared cars and scooters; and restaurant and grocery delivery — has raised €628 million ($709 million at current rates), at a valuation of €7.4 billion ($8.4 billion). It will be using the funds to continue expanding to new geographies and to bring more consumers and partners to its “super app”; and newer business lines, such as its 15-minute grocery delivery option Bolt Market, will be building out ‘dark stores’ in more cities to expand the service beyond the 10 where its active today.

“All of our business units are growing,” founder and CEO Markus Villig said in an interview this week. Villig said that even its most mature business, ride hailing, “is seeing double digit growth,” while the newer businesses, being smaller, are expanding even faster. “The new trend of last year is that private cars are a bad thing and increasingly people want to use other forms of mobility.” He added that Bolt is working on partnering with more city governments to build out its services as part of their updated transportation strategies.

Sequoia Capital, Fidelity Management and Research Company LLC co-led the round with Whale Rock, Owl Rock (a division of Blue Owl), D1, G Squared, Tekne, Ghisallo, and other unnamed backers also participating.

The funding news caps off an eventful few months for the company, which had raised €600 million at a valuation of over €4 billion only four months earlier in a Series E also led by Sequoia. Bolt now has more than 100 million customers in 45 countries and 400+ cities using its services. As a measure of its growth, in August, when the company announced that previous round, it had 75 million customers.

Bolt’s growth is also notable considering the difficulties that some of its competitors have been facing in the wake of Covid: first the pandemic had a major chilling effect on people being willing to go into a vehicle where they have to sit in a closed-in space with another person (the driver). That situation was then compounded when things picked up again but so quickly that many services are suffering from a shortage of drivers, not passengers.

Villig admitted that Bolt, too, faced some “short-term fluctuations” in demand when the lockdowns first started. But it has made attracting and keeping drivers a major focus by paying out better commissions than its rivals (typically, Villig said, it will pay between 10% and 20% better than competitors).

“There is a massive lack of supply on these platforms, so we have focused on taking the most partner-friendly lowest commission,” he said. That has paid off well for Bolt, which has now seen monthly revenues more than double compared to sales pre-Covid, Villig said.

Bolt was founded eight years ago in Tallinn, Estonia (originally as Taxify), with a mission to bring ride hailing to emerging markets and countries where others like Uber had yet to gain a strong foothold, a strategy that it used to expand modestly across regions like Central and Eastern Europe and Africa, in the process attracting investors like China’s Didi — itself having built a massive business in its own home emerging market. (Didi quietly divested its stake in Bolt last year.)

Over time, the focus has remained on Europe and Africa, but Bolt found that a lot of its learnings from those first launches could just as easily be applied in more developed countries, with more lucrative payoffs. 

“We started off in Eastern Europe and Africa because those markets had a bigger need. They had lower car ownership, higher unemployment [making for a market with many freelance drivers], It made sense,” said Villig. “But now we’ve learned that this model works everywhere, and it’s actually easier to grow in Western Europe because they are developed markets. We found if you can make this model work in really cheap, frugal markets, then once you go to London or Stockholm, it’s materially easier. And the unit economcis are definitely better because the prices are higher.” It’s not a perfect system, though. Working in developed markets, he said, the trade-off is “more regulations,” and the limits that come with those.

Meanwhile, Bolt’s diversification approach, moving beyond cars to scooters and couriers, and now also food delivery services, is also a part of its scaling strategy. Offering multiple services within a single app not only helps Bolt bring in new customers and cross sell to them, but it does so with essentially zero marketing costs by putting all of the options and cross-promotions within a single app, said Villig.

“Two elements that set us apart and are turning in our favor are the synergies and the shared costs between these verticals,” he said. Most of Bolt’s competitors are generally focused on one thing in each app, Villig continued, “and we are not,” so it’s easier and less expensive for Bolt to build more services off the back of each other. “Now we are passing on those savings for customers.”

“We’re excited to deepen our partnership with Markus and Bolt to further their mission to make urban travel affordable, sustainable and safe,” said Andrew Reed, a partner at Sequoia, in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “At Sequoia, we believe in the global potential for technology and entrepreneurship and have been inspired by Bolt’s growth from Tallinn, Estonia to over 400 cities and 100 million customers across Europe and Africa. We’re eager to help them expand their footprint, increase their product offering and improve the quality of life in cities for the long term.”

Source: Tech

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Dashworks is a search engine for your company’s sprawling internal knowledge

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As a company grows, the amount of important information employees need to keep track of inevitably grows right along with it. And, as your tech stack gets more complicated, that information ends up split up across more places — buried in Slack threads, tucked into Jira tickets, pushed as files on Dropbox, etc.

Dashworks is a startup aiming to be the go-to place for all of that internal knowledge. Part landing page and part search engine, it hooks into dozens of different enterprise services and gives you one hub to find what you need.

On the landing page front, Dashworks is built to be your work laptop’s homepage. It’s got support for broadcasting company wide announcements, building out FAQs, and sharing bookmarks for the things you often need and can never find — your handbooks, your OKRs, your org charts, etc.

More impressive, though, is its cross-tool search. With backgrounds in natural language processing at companies like Facebook and Cresta, co-founders Prasad Kawthekar and Praty Sharma are building a tool that allow you to ask Dashworks questions and have them answered from the knowledge it’s gathered across all of those aforementioned Slack threads, or Jira tickets, or Dropbox files. It’ll give you a search results page of relevant files across the services you’ve hooked in — but if it thinks it knows the answer to your question, it’ll just bubble that answer right to the top of the page, Google Snippets style.

Image Credits: Dashworks

Right now Dashworks can hook into over 30 different popular services, including Airtable, Asana, Confluence, Dropbox, Gmail, Google Drive, Intercom, Jira, Notion, Slack, Salesforce, Trello, and a whole bunch more — with more on the way, prioritized by demand.

Giving another company access to all of those services and the knowledge within might be unsettling — something the Dashworks team seems quite aware of. Kawthekar tells me that their product is SOC-2 certified, that all respective data is wiped from their servers if you choose to disconnect a service, and that, for teams that are equipped to host the tool themselves, they offer a fully on-prem version.

This week Dashworks is announcing that it raised a $4M round led by Point72 ventures, backed by South Park Commons, Combine Fund, Garuda Ventures, GOAT Capital, Unpopular Ventures, and Starling Ventures. Also backing the round is a number of angels, including Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear and Gusto co-founders Josh Reeves and Tomer London. The company was also a part of Y Combinator’s W20 class.

Image Credits: Dashworks

Source: Tech

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Daily Crunch: Google will offer G Suite legacy edition users a ‘no-cost option’

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To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PST, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for January 28, 2022! It’s nearly blizzard o’clock where I am, so please enjoy the following newsletter as my final missive before hunkering down. In happier and better news, TechCrunch Early Stage is coming up in just a few months and not only am I hype about it, I’ll hopefully be there IRL. See you soon! – Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Google invests up to $1B in Airtel: With a $700 million investment and $300 million in “multi-year commercial agreements” with Airtel, and Indian telco, Google has made its second major bet on Indian infra. Recall that Google also put money into Jio, another Indian telco. The deal underscores the importance of the country in the future of technology revenues.
  • What’s ahead for Europe: On the heels of news that European startups had an outsized 2021 when it came to fundraising, TechCrunch explored what’s ahead for the continent. Some expect a slowdown from peak activity, while others anticipate further acceleration. Regardless of which perspective you favor, European venture investment is expected to remain elevated for some time to come.
  • Zapp raises $200M: And speaking of European startups, Zapp, the U.K.-based quick-convenience delivery startup, just raised a massive Series B. The company previously raised $100 million, meaning that this round was big in absolute and comparative terms. As we see some consolidation in the fast-delivery space, this deal caught our eye.

Startups/VC

  • Are charter cities the future for African tech growth? TechCrunch’s Tage Kene-Okafor has a great piece up on the site noting that “African cities have the fastest global urban growth rate,” which is leading to overcrowding. Some folks think that “charter cities offer a solution.” Special economic zones of all types have been tried before – will they offer African tech a faster route forward?
  • Personalized learning is hot: Our in-house edtech expert Natasah Mascarenhas has a great piece out today on personalized learning startups – Learnfully, Wayfinder, Empowerly, and others – that are taking the lessons of remote schooling to heart and working to make products that work better for our kids. It’s an encouraging, fascinating story.
  • Rise wants to remake team calendaring: There is no shortage of apps in the market to help individuals and teams work together. But we might not need as many as we have. That’s why Rise is making me think. The team calendaring app just raised a few million, and could replace a few tools that myself and friends use. I wonder if the solution to the Tool Overload of 2022 is tools that do less, intentionally.
  • Canvas wants non-tech folks to be able to squeeze answers from data: Developers are in short supply, so no-code tools that allow folks who don’t sling code to do their own building are blowing up. Similarly, a general dearth of data science talent in the market is creating space for tools like Canvas, which “is going all in with a spreadsheet-like interface for non-technical teams to access the information they need without bothering data teams,” TechCrunch reports.
  • Zigbang buys Samsung IoT business: The IoT promises of yesteryear are coming true, and not. Samsara recently went public on the back of its IoT business. That was a win for the category. That Zigbang, a South Korean proptech startup, is buying Samsung’s IoT unit feels slightly less bullish.
  • Series F-tw? Once upon a time I would have mocked a Series F as indication that the company in question had failed to go public. But that was then. Today Series Fs are not that rare. Indian B2B marketplace Moglix just raised one, which doubled its valuation to $2.6 billion. Tiger co-led the $250 million round.

And if you are looking down the barrel of a blizzard, TechCrunch’s Equity podcast has your downtime covered. Enjoy!

European, North American edtech startups see funding triple in 2021

Image Credits: Bet_Noire (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Pre-pandemic, VCs were notoriously reluctant to invest in education-related companies. Today, edtech startups are seeing higher average deal sizes, more seed and pre-seed funding from non-VC investors, and an influx of generalists.

According to Rhys Spence, head of research at Brighteye Ventures, funding for edtech startups based in Europe and North America trebled over the last year.

“Exciting companies are spawning across geographies and verticals, and even generalist investors are building conviction that the sector is capable of producing the same kind of outsized returns generated in fintech, healthtech and other sectors,” writes Spence.

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Northern Light Venture Capital’s He Huang says the Chinese robotics market is overheated: Per the investor, robotics in China is “riddled with speculation and overvalued companies,” calling the situation a bubble. It’s worth noting that China’s central government is working to retool where its tech investment dollars flow.
  • Robinhood goes down, back up: This morning, in the wake of the company’s lackluster earnings report, TechCrunch dug through why Robinhood’s stock sold off in after-hours, pre-market, and early trading sessions yesterday and today. And then Robinhood turned around and gained ample ground during the rest of the day. It’s a weird market moment, but good news for the U.S. fintech all the same.
  • Google to allow legacy G Suite users to move to free accounts: After angering techies still using the “G Suite legacy free edition” by announcing that it was ending the program and requiring payment, the search giant has decided to ”offer more options to existing users,” TechCrunch reports. Somewhere inside of Google, a business decision just met the market and was flipped on its head. Makes you wonder who is calling the shots over there, and if they previously worked for McKinsey.

TechCrunch Experts

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

TechCrunch wants you to recommend growth marketers who have expertise in SEO, social, content writing and more! If you’re a growth marketer, pass this survey along to your clients; we’d like to hear about why they loved working with you.

Source: Tech

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3 experiments for early-stage founders seeking product-market fit

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At Human Ventures, we have a fund for pre-seed and seed-stage investments, a venture studio and an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program.

Through this work, we’ve discovered a lot about how different founders fulfill their journey of customer discovery and product-market fit. One of the largest challenges for pre-seed and seed stage founders is determining where to start: There are a million things to do. What should you do at each stage?

We interviewed three founders from our portfolio, all of whom ran discovery experiments to find their product-market fit at different stages of their company’s development.

Here’s what they had to share:

Pre-MVP/customer discovery phase: Tiny Organics

Tiny Organics is a plant-based baby and toddler food company on a mission to shape childrens’ palates so they’ll choose and love vegetables from their earliest days. The company raised $11 million in their Series A in 2021 and is growing at over 500% annually.

Founders Sofia Laurell and Betsy Fore joined our venture studio as EIRs and went through a six-week discovery sprint. As Sofia explains, they knew they wanted to build something to make parents’ lives easier and threw a lot of initial ideas at the wall from the Finnish baby box 2.0 (Sofia is Finnish) to an easier way to create Instagrammable baby pictures.

They went through multiple exercises to test the viability of new parents’ most pressing and urgent needs:

  • Conduct a “Start with Why” exercise
  • Define the “Jobs to be Done”
  • Create a lean canvas for each (viable) concept
  • Define the user journeys
  • Conduct user surveys using platforms like pollfish.com and 1Q (instant survey tool)
  • Identify and define their customer personas
  • Conduct customer interviews and synthesize them
  • Construct concept prototypes

They also met prospective customers, conducting a focus group of 10-15 moms. When the founders asked them to text them what they were feeding their children along with pictures for a week, they realized the lack of healthy finger foods in the market, thus sparking the idea for Tiny Organics.

Source: Tech

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