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Friday, May 24, 2024

Bolt CEO discusses company moving on after SEC probe

One-click checkout software company Bolt Financial is putting a recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission probe behind it and moving on, according to CEO Maju Kuruvilla.

“It obviously is a very, very involved process, but we’re really happy to put that behind us,” Kuruvilla told . “We look forward to focusing on the momentum for the business and how we can help the retailers, especially the big retailers who are looking to us to innovate for them, because this is a tough year for retailers.”

Here’s how it started: The company and its co-founder Ryan Breslow were subpoenaed last year by the SEC to investigate whether the company violated any securities laws during fundraising in 2021. That is when Bolt was seeking its $355 million Series E round that valued the company at $11 billion.

Breslow “made material misrepresentations about the Company’s financial condition and product pipeline that resulted in the Series E investors buying into the Company at a grossly inflated valuation,” according to a letter requesting information from an attorney representing WestCap and Tribe Capital, two investors from earlier rounds.

The investigation took about 15 months, however, news of that probe didn’t go public until July. Shortly thereafter on August 23, the SEC said, in a letter viewed by , it was not recommending an enforcement action for the company.

The content of the letter was first reported by Forbes last week. It was sent by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement to Bolt’s counsel at Fenwick & West and also noted to the company that the letter “must in no way be construed as indicating that the party has been exonerated or that no action may ultimately result from the staff’s investigation.”

The letter did not include a mention of Breslow, who declined to comment for this story.

Focus on the business

The investigation was a challenging period to manage client expectations, even getting on sales calls himself, said Kuruvilla.

Some of those clients’ concerns centered on whether they could rely on Bolt long-term, especially as it took on larger customers.

“We definitely had to prove that with a longer runway and a path to profitability,” Kuruvilla said. “Being enterprise-ready takes a substantial amount of time. We had to raise the bar on everything: Security, safety, privacy. And we had to get certified on everything so that we can be at the top of the bar.”

During this time, the company, which provides software to help merchants improve conversion at checkout, launched a new product targeting large enterprises. It provides similar conversion software, but in a way that enables them to maintain their existing customer experience. For example, not having other brands or buttons on their screen or detours to the checkout, he explained.

It now counts companies, including Saks OFF 5th, Casper, Toys “R” Us and Lilly Pulitzer as clients. It grew the number of shoppers in its Bolt network to over 20 million, which is an increase of 44% year over year, Kuruvilla said.

A new face

In order to continue growing, Kuruvilla said the company also needed to operate from a product perspective. That includes building what he calls a “universal shopper,” who can “walk across retailers in a very tech agnostic way.”

So he reached out to former colleague, Kal Raman, who he had worked with at Amazon.

In August, Raman came on as president. In addition to Amazon, his commerce background goes back decades, serving in executive roles at Walmart, Samsung and Groupon. He was most recently president at CommerceIQ.

Raman will lead that work on the universal shopper to help merchant clients identify

“The future of checkout is check in,” Kuruvilla said. “How do we recognize shoppers earlier in the cycle, provide them a much better experience and drive the overall experience and conversion better? When we know that, retailers can engage much better. That’s what the consumers are looking for — that connection is important.”

He went on to say that “Raman is helping us to drive to the next level. He built some of the biggest transformation technologies in e-commerce, and he sees this as the next big opportunity.”

What’s next for Bolt

Meanwhile, Kuruvilla said the company is looking at trends like merchandise returns and providing personalized experiences around the universal shopper. That includes features like incorporating biometric logins so shoppers can make purchases more easily.

New features and products are poised for unveiling later this year, he said. The company is also working on some big partnerships that Kuruvilla couldn’t divulge yet.

Bolt has also been managing its cash and has several years of runway ahead and a path to profitability, Kuruvilla said. That doesn’t mean that it won’t raise more venture capital in the future, but that the company’s model can be profitable without any additional capital currently.

“It was important to me that we be in a place where we don’t have to raise any more money,” he said.

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