Markus Villig started Bolt, a Tallinn lift company in 2013 when he was 19. Seven years later, his company is worth € 1.7bn.
It was not going well. Villig set up the program at a budget of € 5,000 and continued when traders told him to stop, such as Uber raising billions for dollars. He says the removal of the company that promoted the job “was probably the most difficult six months I’ve ever had”.
The company survived the first few months because its team “was very confident that we were doing something unique and good,” Villig said in a call to Zoom from Tallinn. Bolt, which also provides e-scooters and e-bikes, as well as food and packaging, has survived another uncertain time – the plague. At the first closing last year, business fell by 85% overnight.
Villig founded the company with his older brother, who had a talent for professionalism. Markus Villig, however, was still in high school and had to work hard to persuade Tallinn taxi drivers to sign up for his program.
He noticed a difference in the capital transport market in Estonia (where Uber was late go), since the city’s taxis were “dangerous”. The consumer case against launching Taxify, as it was known before 2019, was clear. The taxi driver, Villig says, had dirty cars and “took years to get to”. In the spring of 2013, following a post-school survey, she spoke to taxi drivers to find out how things were going.
According to Villig, drivers were obsessed with the old taxi companies, often paying high monthly bills and not earning much. But Villig ended his career by persuading drivers to dedicate themselves to a 19-year-old who had never had a full-time program. “When… You just give them an idea, 90% of them just tell you to leave,” he laughs.
In the meantime, he has forced a private producer to build a platform, but it can cost € 5,000. Villig spent several months urging his parents to lend him money.
Over time he recruited about 100 drivers who were ready to take advantage. But, when it was launched in August 2013, not all came online when they wanted it, and they realized that many were lying. “Frankly, I have very few people,” he said.
He started going to the taxi rank and getting in the car: “That’s why I just went there, and got it [their] phone, signed [them] right up there. . . and it was like, see, every time you come to work just open the app. ”
By winter he had several hundred drivers and was offering a job offer. About nine months later he earned € 70,000. Six months later he raised $ 1.4 million more, mainly from local businesses. By 2014 “we pulled well, and we had businesses that were doing well in Estonia”, he says.
Villig later considered how to move to other markets, but in 2015 and 2016, “Uber became the largest earner leader in the tech industry”, he says. “It was unprecedented. No one raised the money. Not Google, not Facebook, no one ”.
For example, in May 2016, Uber grew $ 5.6bn, I give them a $ 66b pricen (although, its market capitalization is now $ 91bn following its first public move in 2019).
The result: “No VC or one can catch us,” adds Villig. “The next two years were very difficult for us because you can imagine we have less money and fewer billions against the company. It wasn’t a real struggle, ”he says.
He responded by driving as a starting point as he could and believing “two or three years really made us”. With a few exceptions, Bolt spent money very carefully. This culture is enduring and Villig says it gives the company a chance.
When I told him that the travel business seems to be worth a lot of money, he points out that even though Bolt last year made a lot of money, “it’s still smaller than most of our peers.
They illegally refer to Silicon Valley’s original “blitzscale” – as they make a lot of money and use it to destroy “market success”. As the saying goes, “if you win the market, you are the only one who will get the money back”.
While admitting that they are doing what the US is doing, it is in stark contrast to what they see as a smart move in Europe. “It makes sense to take your time, building things on the right foundation and in the long run, is a great way to succeed, not just to get everyone in the early years,” he says.
The warning has worked. Investors returned to Bolt where it was confirmed that the method was effective and that “there were several opportunities in the automotive market,” he added.
Although the money may return, Villig says “we are still very careful”. Bolt may spend less money on advertising, for example, instead lowering driver prices in order to make more money.
The company’s lean strategy – one that has more 50m customers and 1.5m drivers in 40 countries, mainly in Europe and Africa – they also helped prepare for the coronavirus epidemic. When the business collapsed unexpectedly, Villig saw the need to address these issues with long-term optimism. How do you reduce expenses without causing further stress?
He decided to refuse to cut any of Bolt’s 2,000 members. Villig says: “We didn’t see it as an idea to let people go where we would need to be wanted again for six months,” he says. Instead, “we asked who wanted to charge 30% of the payment and – to me, surprisingly – most people were happy to take it. [it]. This really helped us to cope with our difficult times. ”
In a recent report of Oxford UniversityHowever, Bolt was voted one of the biggest challenges in the job that provides financial services to gig. But she did not want to comment on her findings.
Markus Villig’s three questions
Who is the leader of your leadership?
I don’t think there are any individuals. But what I’ve tried to do over the years is learn all the CEOs that come before me – so Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Elon Musk and so on. But all I try to do is take all the good and do what I have to do every day. There is not a single image.
What was the first lesson you learned?
It makes sense that he is everything. What I often see is that people get into this moment when they come up with very complicated methods [with] how to motivate people with goals and what to do. Ultimately humans are simple creatures – when you can reduce things to a better way they work. So when we have a goal, we make only a few sentences. As a youth leader what is sometimes easier to do than [it would be for] senior leader.
What would you be doing if you didn’t start?
Another job I thought of as a child was to make science, so I would probably do something in physics or math. I’ve always really liked these ones. In high school I went to Olympiads [competitions] and so on. But unfortunately I did not have time to do so [those] passions for the past decade.
Bolt’s investment in 2019 was € 148m. In May 2020 it announced a Raising the 100m bill, as a flexible form, which the company said at the time would allow keep growing boosting its rise, slower mobility and catering businesses in Europe and Africa.
The funds come from individual firms, Naya Capital Management, who was also a stock broker for the company in the $ 67m Series C category in July 2019. Bolt raised over € 150m in December and received € 20m in March from International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank.
Last summer, when cities resumed, Villig said “speeding was faster than we expected”. And the growth of micromobility and food supply has intensified as a result of the epidemic. Villig says: “We were able to advance our goal of sharing motorcycles in 45 cities, and now we want to become the smallest arms operators in Europe by 2021,” he says.
Bolt currently uses 130,000 electric scooters in more than 100 cities in 15 countries.
He hasn’t always been a fan of e-scooters, acknowledging that finances make it a “difficult business to be right”. He believes Bolt has a unique approach, because it develops its own tools, allowing the motorcycle to, Villig says, is faster and cheaper to repair. And with the provision of scooters, bicycle rides and food delivery services, expertise and advertising are shared and retained by customers.
He has brought his company away from someone who wants to “get into technology”, but doesn’t know how to start a company. Villig says: “I started by saying ‘where to start’,