Bolt, previously known as Taxify, is an app-based taxi service founded in 2013 by the Estonian brothers Markus and Martin Villig. The company was founded on their idea that there was an open market for a “modern” taxi company in eastern Europe, an area where Uber hadn’t managed to settle. Bolt was launched in Sweden in April of 2019. The company is established internationally and has a net worth of over 9 billion Swedish crowns.
The app works a lot like the Uber app; a user creates an account by connecting their Facebook account (or name and email) and their credit card. Through the phone’s GPS the user can see the different Bolt drivers on a map of the area. The user writes the address and then hails a cab. The price is determined by a number of factors, such as time of day and the length of the ride.
Among Bolt’s investors are the German company Daimler and the Chinese company DiDi (formerly Didi Kuaidi). Daimler is a multinational automotive company. It is the largest truck producer in the world and has previously invested into “ride-sharing” startups and car-rentals. Daimler has been found guilty of keeping secret bank accounts that have been used to bribe governments. DiDi is a transport network, AI-development and autonomous technology conglomerate that has invested into ride-sharing previously. Both companies register hits in the archives of offshore-companies in the Panama Papers.
Bolt claims that working as a driver is a good fit for “go-getters” and fighters. In practice this means that there are no proper working hours and all pay is based on provision. Bolt takes a 15% cut for every ride, probably used to attract drivers that would otherwise go to Uber, whose fees are higher. On another page of their website Bolt claims that they take between 10% and 20% in fees.
The people driving for Bolt are not employed by the company, which means that Bolt has no responsibilities towards the drivers. The drivers need their own cars and smart phones to operate. This also applies for all the taxation, and Bolt refer to the national tax agency for any questions. In cases where a country’s laws would in some way “force” Bolt to act as an employer, the driver must juridically reject all such statements (according to §10.2 in the drivers conditions).
The company advertises the work as a driver as flexible, which means that there are no breaks, no lunch, and no schedule. The drivers act on a freelance-basis and must therefore always be connected to the app to make money. Every break is a risk to miss out on money, which encourages being active as much as possible since no money is ever guaranteed. The risk here is that the driver must work more than is healthy, despite the obvious danger to traffic of driving in an exhausted state.
Bolt also supplies electric scooters for rent, although not in Sweden at the time of writing. The Swedish director of Bolt, Nils Wijkmark, is also the CEO and co-founder of Taskrunner.