Bolt Raises $68 Million to Simplify E-commerce
Bolt — not to be confused with blockchain startup Bolt Labs, hardware investor Bolt, or the ride-sharing firm formerly known as Taxify — aims to accomplish no less than reinventing the ecommerce payments stack top to bottom. The San Francisco-based company, which was founded in 2014 by Eric Feldman and Ryan Breslow, provides a suite of tools designed to streamline transactions across web platforms. And to gear up for its next stage of growth, it’s raising substantial venture capital.
Bolt today revealed the closure of a $68 million series B funding round co-led by Activant Capital and Tribe Capital, which brings its total raised to $90 million. Other contributors included Allbirds’ Benny Joseph; Revolve’s Jon Tam; Bombas’ Dave Heath; Burrow’s Kevin Weinman; Brett Jackson, formerly of Crocs; Kelly Cooper, previously of Athleta; Stance’s Paul Zaengle; Kevin Han, formerly at Forever 21; Jet.com’s Evan DiMeglio; and Dagne Dover’s Melissa Mash.
“The way online commerce works today is, frankly, embarrassing … Bolt is redefining the way online retailers and merchants approach their payments infrastructure and fraud detection by eliminating the layers and replacing them with one seamless product,” said Breslow in a previous statement. “And this isn’t just for merchants. For the millions of consumers, we are powering a seamless, Amazon-like checkout experience that will dramatically reduce headaches, increase the speed at checkout, and virtually eliminate false positives and declined transactions.”
Bolt’s initial business model revolved around digital currency in online checkouts, but after roughly 12 months of experimenting, Breslow and Feldman decided to shift focus to lower-hanging ecommerce fruit. The two and their team spent the better part of three years crafting a tool set that addresses pain points in checkout and fraud detection, and that integrates seamlessly with existing platforms like Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, Woocommerce, and Salesforce Commerce Cloud.
To this end, Bolt claims its checkout page is up to 10 times faster than the competition thanks to a preprocessing technique that loads elements and code in less than a second. The flow doesn’t require customers to enter a billing address; its mobile experience is both no-scroll and above-the-fold; and it adopts a post-checkout (as opposed to pre-checkout) registration model — that is, shoppers can choose to sign up for an account after they’ve entered their payment information.
That’s all in addition to built-in A/B testing features that enable developers to push improvements continuously, and to a payments processing backend that’s fully compliant with PCI level-1 rules.
To reduce fraud, Bolt captures mouse pointer locations, typing speeds and accuracies, copying and pasting behaviors, and other browsing, cart, and checkout data. Its machine learning algorithms analyze over 200 variables on each transaction, and a dedicated team reviews every declined transaction. (Customers flagged as potentially malicious are afforded the chance to provide additional information to get their orders approved.)
The company is confident enough in its detection tech that it covers 100% of fraudulent chargebacks.
Perhaps in part for that reason, Bolt has had no trouble attracting clients in the roughly one year since it emerged from stealth. The company has reached an annualized payment processing volume of more than $1 billion, and it says its clients have conducted more than 1.5 million transactions to date.
More than 100 online merchants had Bolt systems in production as January 2018, including Invicta, Watches.com, Robert Wayne Footwear, Brian Gavin Diamonds, Adiamor Diamond Jewelry, State Bicycle Co., BlenderBottle, Dita Eyewear, HUF Worldwide, Polywood, and others.
“After working in retail for a decade, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges associated with online shopping, both on the backend and when it comes to the shopper experience,” said Tam, Revolve’s director of operations, in a statement. “Bolt is tackling all this and more, which is why I’m excited for the company and its mission. This is just the beginning for Bolt as they build out their product and partner with more of the retailers we all know and love.”
Bolt charges a flat, percentage-based fee per transaction. It matches processing fees, and it claims that the average customer realizes 10-50% (which works out to about $25 million) in new revenue.
“Bolt is the first company to give online retailers a single product for managing the most important part of their business: checkout. They’ve assembled the most elite product and engineering team I’ve ever seen to tackle some of the biggest problems in online retail, and have a breakthrough approach to fraud detection and checkout speed,” said Activant Capital founder and partner Steven R. Sarracino. “The moment I was introduced to Bolt, I knew immediately that the company would be the missing piece of the e-commerce ecosystem that we’ve been waiting for.”
Among Bolt’s workforce of several dozen employees are engineers hailing from Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Airbnb, and a risk team formerly with CashStar. Previous and existing backers include Stanford’s StartX fund, Streamlined Ventures, Floodgate, Great Oaks VC, Trevor Traina, and Brainchild Holdings, along with the founders of PayPal, Intuit, Splunk, StubHub, and Oculus.