The boss of ride-hailing app Bolt has attacked Uber’s “lavish spending” after securing new investment that values his business at more than €4bn (£3.4bn).
Markus Villig, a 27-year-old Estonian, threw down the gauntlet to Silicon Valley rivals after raising €600m from venture capital funds.
He told The Telegraph that Bolt has a "very different mentality from some of the usual Silicon Valley companies which just raise billions and billions of funding. They sort of lavishly spend the various things and think it’s going to be a winner take all market. There will be a monopoly and it doesn’t really matter.
“For us it is completely different. we’re coming from Estonia [with an] Eastern European background. We’re like: ‘How do we operate this thing as frugally as possible?’ ”
In its biggest investment round to date, Bolt secured investment from Sequoia, Tekne and Ghisallo, alongside existing investors G Squared, D1 Capital and Naya.
Bolt operates across 45 countries in Europe and Africa, offering ride-hailing services, car-sharing and e-scooters. Similar to rivals such as Uber, it recently launched takeaway delivery division Bolt Food and Bolt Market, which allows customers to order groceries from home.
Bolt chief executive Markus Villig
Mr Villig said Bolt would be more appealing to gig economy workers because it offered them a larger cut of the profits.
Customers would benefit from cheaper prices, but margins would be maintained by focusing on having a lower cost base than its competitors.
Instead of relying on big marketing budgets, the company would focus on word of mouth, he added.
With a market value of $81bn, Uber towers over the likes of Bolt. But Mr Villig, who started the business when he was just 19, said the US company should be wary of his firm: “If they are not [worried], they should be.”
Bolt focuses on ride-hailing in the UK, but said it was looking at entering the market for “micro mobility” – scooters and e-bikes – in the coming months.
“Our mission is to replace the private car,” Mr Villig said.
Bolt drivers in London launched industrial action in June over its refusal to grant them workers’ rights. The strikes followed a Supreme Court decision forcing Uber to grant drivers a minimum wage and paid annual leave.
Mr Villig shrugged off the prospect of similar requirements being imposed on Bolt.
“Most of those court cases are from the time when Uber was a monopoly,” he said. “That’s now being solved through increased competition.”
Jamie Heywood, Uber’s European boss, said: “It just doesn’t make sense drivers are taking a trip with us in the UK in which they are entitled as workers to holiday pay and pensions, and five minutes later because many drivers are multi-app they’re taking a separate trip where they’re not eligible for benefits.”