Didi-Backed Taxify Rebrands to Bolt With Eye on Scooter Deals

(Bloomberg) -- One of Uber Technologies Inc.’s European rivals, Taxify OU, has brought its ride-hailing business under the same brand as its e-scooter arm, ahead of a year of expansion into new markets.

Taxify will become Bolt, its chief executive officer said in an interview. The Didi Chuxing and Daimler AG-backed company has predominately concentrated on Eastern Europe and African markets, but launched its e-scooter business, Bolt, in Paris in mid-2018.

“We see other opportunities ahead if we look at public transportation, for example, so we felt the name should catch up with the business,” CEO Markus Villig said in an interview. “The future is clearly electric, whether it’s cars or scooters.”

Bolt is also in talks with several European e-scooter rental companies to promote their services in its revamped mobility app, Villig said, who also identified Madrid, among five other cities, where Bolt is planning to launch its own scooters.

Taxify raised $175 million in May last year, at a $1 billion valuation, in a deal led by Daimler. It has 25 million registered users across the 30 countries it’s active in, according to a spokesman.

Villig said the Estonia-based startup had “sufficient private funding right now” and that he expected the business to double in size this year. An IPO is “likely,” he said, but there is no financial motivation to do so in the near future.

Taxify has expanded from connecting customers to traditional taxis, to operating fleets of private-hire drivers similar to Uber, and in Africa -- where about 50 percent of its users are based -- has pushed into motorcycle rental, too. Villig said the company launched the motorcycle business in two African countries, but would expand across more of that continent this year.

Villig said Bolt is in talks with a number of scooter companies about making their vehicles visible to users through its app, with the lower customer acquisition costs helping offset the expensive business of buying and maintaining fleets of electric scooters.

"Scooters right now are similar to how ride-hailing companies were seven years ago, where there were dozens of operators and eventually there was consolidation,” he said. “We talked to scooter operators over the last couple of months as they realized the unit economics are nowhere near what everyone was expecting.”

Bloomberg reported in February that a swelling number of mobility startups active in Europe had forced smaller players to seek consolidation and mergers in order to remain competitive.

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