Some interesting insights from the story of Bolt founder Markus Villig


1. Importance of community. From a very young age, Markus was surrounded by Estonia’s coolest tech people. His older brother Martin was one of the creators of Skype and later became his co-founder. Martin was the organizer of regular hackathons where Estonia’s entire tech community participated. Markus was visiting these events and meeting all these people from a very young age. I have a feeling that all these successful people are gathering in the same places, knowing each other, and constantly sharing ideas, tools, and behavioral patterns that help them become successful. Build a community that helps you build cool stuff that you want.

2. Find clients first, code later. Before coding the first version of Bolt, Markus talked to almost every taxi driver in Tallinn to get the 50 first driver sign-ups from one side and collected a solid amount of waitlist users mostly from universities on the other side. Only when he validated the demand did he start developing the app.

3. Start with a small, narrow market. Help people you know very well fix a problem that you are familiar with (at this moment Peter Thiel says hi). Uber was expanding aggressively, had more funds, and was taking investments from almost every venture capital firm. Markus couldn’t get investments from any of them. Instead, he received investments from local Estonian angel investors that nobody in the big global tech world knew about. And he knew his local market well and was focused on creating the best customer experience first in Tallinn, then in Estonia, then in the whole of Eastern Europe, and then in Africa.


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