Ride-hailing firm Bolt launched in London on Tuesday in a direct challenge to Uber Technologies Inc’s (NYSE:UBER) dominance in the UK capital.
Formerly known as Taxify, Estonia-based Bolt currently operates in 30 countries across Europe on Africa and serves around 25mln customers.
It also has some serious financial backers including German car giant Daimler, which led a US$175mln funding round last year that valued the company at US$1bn, granting it ‘unicorn’ status.
Aside from taxi services, the company also operates electronic scooters, motorcycles and food delivery in some of its markets.
The company has presented itself as not only a cheaper but fairer operator compared to its rivals, taking 15% commission from fares as opposed to Uber which takes 25%.
The firm is also touting its in-app panic button which will allow both passengers and drivers to contact police services directly if needed.
Bolt said that it would offer customers in London a 50% discount on fares during an initial promotion period, adding that users would save on average between 5% and 10% on trips thereafter.
“Across the globe, we’ve seen the positive effects that lower prices for passengers and better working conditions for drivers can have on communities. We’re committed to bringing our customer-focused approach to London and give people the chance to get behind a European brand”, said Markus Villig, Bolt’s founder and chief executive.
Bolt’s launch aims to take on Uber in its largest European market, where up until now it has not had a serious competitor but has struggled with several court challenges to its ability to operate in the city.
Earlier this year the ride-hailing giant managed to fight off a legal challenge from a consortium of ‘black cab’ drivers who had challenged a decision to grant a 15-month operating licence to Uber after it was previously refused one by Transport for London.
The emergence of a new competitor will also provide an additional headache for Uber as it seeks to recover from a disappointing flop at its initial public offering (IPO) last month, with its shares as of the close in New York on Monday still trading below their float price of US$45 each.