Europe's answer to Uber expands into the electric scooter scene in Madrid

Key Points
  • Bolt, formerly known as Taxify, is launching its electric kick scooter-sharing service in Madrid.
  • The move marks another stepping stone in the start-up's move toward new mobility options beyond car-hailing.
  • The Estonia-based company is seeking to raise an additional round of funding from investors.
Bolt is launching its electric scooter service in Madrid, following a rollout last year in Paris.
Bolt

It's a phenomenon that's seen wild popularity — and infamy — in some U.S. cities. Now, the electric scooter craze looks set to gain further ground in Europe.

Estonian ride-hailing firm Bolt, formerly known as Taxify, is launching its electric kick scooter-sharing service in Madrid, following a rollout last year in Paris.

Rides in the Spanish capital will cost 15 cents a minute, on top of a 1 euro minimum charge. Customers need to scan a QR code to unlock the scooters and can leave them on the street once a trip is complete.

"Beating the traffic is a big issue in cities like Madrid and a lot of trips are much more efficiently covered with an electric scooter rather than a car with a driver," Bolt co-founder and CEO Markus Villig said in a statement.

"By bringing Bolt scooters to Madrid, we're solving two things at once: reducing car rides as well as saving time and money for our customers."

The move marks another stepping stone in the start-up's drive toward new mobility options beyond car-hailing. It recently went through rebranding, changing its name to Bolt, which is the same name it used for the Paris scooter service.

It also mirrors Uber's aim to become a one-stop shop for mobility. The ride-hailing giant made its own push into the e-scooter market last year following the acquisition of bike-sharing firm, Jump.

Bolt is also looking to branch out into another key area for Uber — food delivery. It recently announced plans to launch a competitor to Uber Eats in Estonia, Finland and South Africa this summer.

As it pushes toward a renewed focus on growth, Bolt is seeking to raise an additional round of funding from investors. It recently hired a new finance chief, former Spotify executive Johan Bergqvist, who will be tasked with overseeing fundraising efforts at the firm.

The company hasn't disclosed how much it's looking to raise, nor who the investors will be. Bolt's last big investment — which it secured last year when it was still known as Taxify — saw it raise $175 million at a $1 billion valuation.

The company is backed by Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing and German automaker Daimler, which itself owns a taxi hire app called MyTaxi.

E-scooter craze

The dockless e-scooter market has seen massive interest from investors, with serious cash being pumped into the likes of Lime and Bird.

Lime recently closed a $310 million funding deal that values the firm at $2.4 billion, while Bird last year raised $300 million at a $2 billion valuation — the latter is also reportedly in talks to raise a further $300 million.

But the battery-powered devices have seen some regulatory pushback in a number of cities, amid complaints that they are being ridden illegally on sidewalks and dumped in inappropriate places.

San Francisco temporarily banned them last year, before granting permits to some start-ups in the space to let them resume operations. But Lime, Bird and Uber were refused licenses by the local authority.

Madrid and Paris, meanwhile, banned e-scooters from sidewalks last year, while Spain's capital also banned three operators, including Lime, for failing to comply with its rules. Madrid's city hall later restored Lime's ability to operate, while Bolt and Jump were also granted permits.

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