How Bolt plans to be more uber than Uber
5 min read
Overcoming competitors with brand names that have become part of the modern vernacular is a challenge Estonia-based Bolt has set itself as it takes on Uber
Through operating efficiency and a strong focus on certain regions, Estonian taxi-hailing company Bolt is setting out its stall to create a pan-European transport-as-a-service ecosystem available to consumers via a single app.

When Bolt founder Markus Villig was 19 years old and still at high school studying computer science, he had the idea of putting the taxi services in Estonian capital Tallinn and the capital of neighbouring Latvia, Riga, onto a single digital platform. Today he not only wants the company to become Europe's go-to ride-hailing service – not easy with Uber well entrenched in the region – but wants to create a pan-European mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) platform offering consumers multiple travel and deliver options from a single digital sign-in.

Villig initially founded ride-hailing company mTakso in 2013, which later became Taxify and is now Bolt.

Although Uber had been around since 2009, the idea for Bolt was born from Villig's bad experiences using taxis in Tallinn. "All I knew was that taxis were a horrible experience at the time in Tallinn," he said. "We used to have a few dozen taxi companies and you usually had to call 10 of them before you got a car, and when it turned up, you couldn't pay with a card."

"So we thought we should apply technology to this problem."

Villig said the company began with the simple model of creating the platform, signing up existing taxis and allowing people who are not taxi drivers to get authorised and join. The concept is also easy to understand, he said. "The transparency of driver ratings and digital payments made it substantially better for consumers, which is why it is adopted so quickly."

Bolt has 30 million customers who have signed up and taken a journey. In London, Bolt now has more than 35,000 drivers signed up and is Uber's first real competition.

Still a teenager finishing school, Villig was accompanied by…
Karl Flinders
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