Bolt, Estonia ride-hailing startup, has secured $711 million or €628 million funds from investors to expand its transportation and food delivery operations. The new funding pushes Bolt’s valuation to $8.4 billion or €7.4 billion from over $4.5 million or €4 billion it was valued in August 2020 when it raised $679 million or €600 million in funding.
According to the company, the secured fund will be used to expand operations to new cities/countries, onboard more customers on its super app and new line businesses such as its 15 minutes grocery delivery options.
Participants of the fund round are, Sequoia Capital, Fidelity Management and Research Company LLC, Whale Rock, Owl Rock (a division of Blue Owl), D1, G Squared, Tekne, Ghisallo, and other unnamed backers investors.
Markus Villig, the founder and CEO of Bolt in an interview, said, “we are expanding all the five product lines extremely quickly, developing product R&D and rolling out in new cities”. He affirmed that all the company’s business units are growing, the ride-hailing business “is seeing double-digit growth,” and the new businesses are growing even faster.
Compared to 75 million customers reported in August, Bolt now has more than 100 million customers in over 400 cities in 49 countries subscribed to its services.
Speaking on the challenges the company faced at the advent of COVID-19, Markus said there were “short-term fluctuations” in demand, however, Bolt launched a strategy to attract and keep drivers by focusing on better commission between 10 percent and 20 percent 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.
Speaking on the company’s expansion to developed countries, Markus said, “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. 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 economics are definitely better because the prices are higher.”
Andrew Reed, a partner at Sequoia said, “We’re excited to deepen our partnership with Markus and Bolt to further their mission to make urban travel affordable, sustainable and safe. 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.”
Kwik Secures $2M in New Funding Round to Extend Services
The startup which is also based in France was launched in Lagos in 2019 with last-mile delivery service offered to B2B merchants and from social vendors to e-commerce platforms.
According to thee startup founder and CEO, Romain Poirot-Lellig, Kwik will use the funding in this new round to add a financial solution to its existing offerings. Other investors in this round include Humla Ventures, Nabuboto, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot and Pulse Africa founder Leonard Stiegeler.
Having established in Nigeria, the startup sets itself up for competition from known names like GoKada who also have a remarkable presence with its last-mile delivery offering in many parts of Nigeria. However, Kwik has also had a remarkable run since it was established in 2019. The startups has also launched in Nigeri’s capital territory, Abuja, where it also boasts of more than 100,000 merchants who use the platform – both on web and its mobile application – to run a number of logistical, commercial and financial needs of their businesses. And according to Romain, there are more than 75% weekly active users on the app.
With the fund raised, the startup wantf to make do on what the founder had earlier said about its product when he disclosed that Kwik wants to “bring the informal economy into the formal economy,” by focusing on last-mile delivery, e-commerce (warehousing and fulfilment) and the proposed financial services it is about to add.
Speaking about the startup offerings, Romain said: “Our goal is for Kwik to become the prime app choice for African social vendors and traditional merchants going digital. Integrating delivery, payment and e-commerce tools seamlessly in one easy-to-use mobile app is a catchy proposition. This financing round will enable us to expand across all three key verticals and select geographic areas. We are purely a software company. We create a community and a matchmaking playground. We ensure that we enforce the rules of the playground, both on the merchants’ side and on the partners’ side. The financing part is the last part we’re building. For the moment, we connect riders and financing institutions that are willing to finance bikes. On top of that, we’re going to launch a B2B lending marketplace by the end of the year to enable merchants to get financing.”
Investors King also gathered that the startup is aiming to use the funds to acquire more customers and expand its reach beyond Lagos and Abuja with plans already on the way for Ibadan, Kano, Port Harcourt and Kaduna.
Poirot-Lellig also disclosed that the company plans to increase the number of merchants on its platform to 800,000 by the end of 2022.
AgricTech Startup, ThriveAgric Secures $56.5M in Debt Funding
ThriveAgric has secured $56.5 million in debt funding led by local commercial banks and institutional investors in Nigeria.
The startup also disclosed that this funding round came with another co-investment grant of $1.75M from the USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment. According to the startup, the new funding will be used to grow its 200,000+ farmer base and expand into new African markets around Ghana, Zambia and Kenya.
Investors King recalls that this investment is coming after the startup had earlier secured $9m raised in 2020.
ThriveAgric uses technology to make farm products available to larger markets and FMCGs. Founded in 2017 and launching operations in 2018, the startup currently boasts of a year-on-year increase of 277% in farmer numbers.
A number of empowerment platforms for rural farmers have sprung up over the years and these initiatives are innovative to secure the distribution of food and ensure food security. For ThriveAgric, it empowers farmers in Nigeria by enabling them sell their products by leveraging its proprietary technology which also provides access to finance and credit facilities for farmers as well as improve productivity and sales to promote food security.
Farmers can have their food products – mostly maize, rice, soybeans – stored in the company’s 450+ warehouses across Bauchi, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano and Katsina in Nigeria. The products are then commoditized by the startup and offered to local and global trade markets at a premium price.
Speaking on the fund raised, Chief Executive Officer Uka Eje, revealed: “The new investment takes us one step closer to fulfilling our mission of building the largest network of profitable African farmers using technology, to ensure food security. We look ahead with renewed confidence knowing that our smallholder farmers will benefit financially even more from this new investment.
Despite a volatile backdrop over the past few years, brought about by the global pandemic, ThriveAgric witnessed temporary payment disruptions to our retail crowdfunders. However, we were able to overcome those challenges within a year and maintained company profitability. Our solid financial performance underscores investors’ faith in ThriveAgric.
This innovative solution by the startup is improving the lives of rural farmers who depend mostly on their farm products for income. According to statistics, smallholder or rural farmers constitute over 80% of the Nigerian agriculture industry. And these farmers often lack access to finance, advisory, and technology.
However, data by the startup has given hope to rural and smallholder farmers. The company disclosed that farmers on its platform can charge premium rates for their commodities, allowing them to increase their incomes up to 25%
Meaningful Gigs Secures $6M in New Seed Funding
Africa-focused tech community startup, Meaningful Gigs, has secured $6M in new funding to expand its market base and offerings for African designers and service providers.
Meaningful Gigs has provided a community for African designers to meet the needs of local and international enterprises by linking them with gigs via its technology-based platform.
The startup was founded by Ronnie Kwesi Coleman and is based in Washington D.C with trusted backing from multinational companies like Coca-Cola, Vans, Audi, e.t.c. According to the startup, the fund raised will be used to expand its offering to more African designers to reach more multinational companies on its platform.
With an aggressive marketing campaign, Ronnie revealed that the company wants to also reach a number of companies to tap into the rich untapped market of the freelancing-gig economy. According to him, the target is to reach over a hundred enterprises to add to the existing 40 of which 17 are multinational enterprises.
Speaking about the seed funding, he disclosed: “We are thinking about how we can let more dimensional traders all over the continent know that we exist, so that we can help them make five to seven times more what they are making locally. We are creating more referral programs through our platform to help scale throughout the continent.”
Investors King gathered that this seed round was led by Stage 2 Capital with participation from Rethink Education, Authentic Ventures, Reach Capital, Marla Blow, Zvi Band, and Michele Perry.
The gig industry is one that accounts for blasting figures that are not documented in many instances. For example, in Africa where many people leverage such platforms, gigs are closed internally on the platforms and people get their earnings without any obligation of tax recording which is solely due to the nature of the industry.
Over the years, a number of innovative platforms have also sprung up with the same offering that helps people close deals and earns money by providing meaningful services. And according to varying reports, the gig economy is one that has had an upward trajectory since it began.
In 2020 when the pandemic peaked, the gig industry experienced a huge spurt that was accelerated by the pandemic – and with no signs of slowing down. The sector’s growth is expected to reach $455 billion in 2023 which is double the value in 2018 and a 17% CAGR.
Undoubtedly, as gig opportunities increase, so do the platforms linking workers with remote opportunities.
Speaking about investing in Meaningful Gigs, Mandy Cole, Stage 2 Capital partner disclosed: “With the shortage of highly skilled talent and the increasing need for diverse thinking, especially in creative, marketing and product, Meaningful Gigs is solving a huge problem by connecting talented African designers with companies to deliver best-in-class design. We’ve been impressed with the Meaningful Gigs team’s focus in providing the best design experience for their clients while providing amazing tools for their designers; we’re excited to support their journey to become the destination for diverse design talent.”
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