Bolt Adds $75 million to Its Series C as The Battle to Rule Online Checkout Continues
WestCap and General Atlantic led the new tranche, which Bolt CEO Ryan Breslow told TechCrunch was raised at around twice its Series C valuation. PitchBook pegs the company’s Series C at a post-money valuation of $500 million, implying that the Series C1 values Bolt at around $1 billion.
The company is calling the latest check its “Series C1.” Why not just call it a Series D? According to Breslow, Bolt’s future Series D will be much larger.
While Bolt’s creatively demarcated Series C1 is interesting, the capital event is in line with how the checkout space is growing in aggregate right now. There’s a lot of money being put to work on solving a particular e-commerce pain point.
Fast, a competing online checkout software provider, raised $20 million in March. And this June, Checkout.com, which is based in England but has a global stable of offices, raised $150 million at a $5.5 billion valuation.
Bolt, meanwhile, announced the first $50 million of its Series C in July. The company’s C1 event, therefore, represents not only the fourth major investment into checkout tech this year, but it also fits into a now-regular trend of fast-growing startups raising two checks in 2020 — companies like Welcome, Skyflow, AgentSync and Bestow also completed the feat this year.
But enough talking about its market. Let’s dig into what Bolt is building and why it just took on another truckload of cash.
Bolt offers four connected services: checkout, payments, user accounts and fraud protection.
The company’s core offering is its checkout product, which it claims is both faster than comparable industry averages and has higher conversion rates. The startup’s payments and fraud services fits into its checkout universe by ensuring that transactions are real and that payments can be accepted. Finally, Bolt’s user accounts (shoppers are prompted to save their credentials when they first execute a purchase with the startup’s tech) boost the chance that someone who has checked out online using its tech will do so again in the future, helping Bolt to sell its service and ensure customers benefit from it.
The more shoppers that Bolt can attract, the more accounts it will have in the market feeding more data into its anti-fraud tool and checkout personalization technology.
And Bolt is reaching more online buyers, with the company claiming a roughly 10x gain of the number of people who have made accounts with its service this year. According to Breslow, the number was around 450,000 last December. It’s around 4.5 million now, he said, and Bolt expects the figure to reach 30 million next year.
Given the huge scale of its expected account creation, TechCrunch asked Breslow about his confidence interval in the number. He said 90%, thanks to Authentic Brands Group (ABG) linking up with Bolt, a deal that his company announced last month. Breslow said that ABG has 50 million shoppers; perhaps the 30 million figure is possible.
(Distribution for checkout tech is like oxygen, so competing companies in the space love to chat about their availability gains. Here’s Fast talking about being supported by WooCommerce from last week, for example. Fast declined to share processing growth metrics with TechCrunch after that announcement.)
Bolt’s historical shopper growth has paid dividends for its total transaction volume. The company told TechCrunch that it processed around $1 billion in transactions this year, up around 3.5x from its 2019 gross merchandise volume (GMV). That approximate pace of growth implies a roughly $286 million GMV result for Bolt last year; how far the company can scale that figure in 2021 will be our chief measuring stick for how well its ABG deal performs.
Breslow told TechCrunch that Bolt expects to 3x its GMV in 2021, which we read as implying a roughly $3 billion number.
But don’t just take that figure, apply a payment processing percentage and walk away with a revenue guess for Bolt. The company does make money from payments, but also from charging for its other services — like fraud protection — on a SaaS basis. So Bolt is a hybrid payments-and-software company, an increasingly popular model, though one that certain categories of software are slow to pick up on.
Underpinning Bolt’s plans to treble GMV and greatly expand its shopper network is its new capital. The $75 million cache of new dollars is going into handling market demand, moving upmarket and engineering, the company said. In short there’s a lot of in-market demand for better checkout tech — hence all the venture activity — and larger customers need more customizations and sales support. Bolt is going to spend on that.
Given that Bolt just reloaded, it would not be a surprise to see Fast or Checkout.com raise more capital in Q1 or Q2 of 2021. More when that happens.