AFRICA – Taxi-hailing firm Bolt has secured a US$56m loan that will be injected into the firm’s research and development plans, aiming to make its products and services more reliable, safe and sustainable.

Bolt, formerly Taxify, will also use the debt facility from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to launch more products in the market that include personalised mobility services like food delivery.

The company is also set to launch food delivery service locally after unveiling a similar venture in Europe in August in 2019. Bolt also has plans to enter into mass transport business.

“Mobility is one of the areas we will continue to grow and innovate for the benefit of our customers. We will invest in improving and expanding our ride-hailing technology as well as personalised mobility services like food delivery,” said Martin Villig, Bolt’s co-founder.

“We are thrilled to have the European Investment Bank join the ranks of our backers as this enables us to move faster towards serving many more people in Europe and across the world.”

The firm said that the funds will go into improving urban mobility and birth opportunities across the globe.

“Bolt is a good example of excellence in tech and innovation. As you say, to stand still is to go backwards, and Bolt is never standing still. The Bank is very happy to support the company,” EIB’s Vice President Alexander Stubb said.

With this latest money, Bolt has raised more than US$257.8 million in funding since opening for business in 2013, and as of its last equity round in July 2019 (when it raised US$67 million), it was valued at over US$1 billion, which Bolt has confirmed to me remains the valuation here.

Bolt further said that its service now has more than 30 million users in 150 cities and 35 countries and is profitable in two-thirds of its markets.

The EIB is the nonprofit, long-term lending arm of the European Union, and this financing in the form of a quasi-equity facility.

Also known as venture debt, the financing is structured as a loan, where repayment terms are based on a percentage of future revenue streams, and ownership is not diluted. 

The funding is backed in turn by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, as part of a bigger strategy to boost investment in promising companies, and specifically riskier startups, in the tech industry. 

It expects to make and spur some US$509.8 billion in investments across 1 million startups and SMEs as part of this plan.