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Contained in the collapse of Usain Bolt’s scooter startup


The sudden collapse of a transportation startup co-founded by Usain Bolt didn’t just leave lots of of unusable scooters and e-bikes littered across American cities — it also left behind a gaggle of irate ex-employees who were left unpaid for months, The Post has learned. 

Bolt Mobility, which was co-founded by the legendary Jamaican sprinter and featured his voice on its e-scooters, went out of business in July after running out of funding. The corporate abandoned vehicles on the streets of cities including Portland, Oregon and Burlington, Vermont that became useless because that they had to be unlocked through its app. 

But it surely’s not only the local governments that should clean up Bolt’s mess who’re indignant — a gaggle of ex-employees also say the startup withheld their final paychecks for months.

4 former Bolt employees told The Post that, prior to the shutdown in July, the corporate didn’t send out their paychecks for all the month of June.

Despite the paychecks not coming through, the workers say they were repeatedly assured by Bolt’s leadership that the disruption was temporary and they’d receive backpay as soon as funding got here in from an Indian investor. 

The cash never materialized and the corporate shut down in July, leaving the ex-employees wondering when — if ever — they’d get their paychecks. 

“I’ve been lied to and manipulated,” one ex-employee of Usain Bolt’s scooter startup raged. AFP via Getty Images

“Not paying us for the last month of labor we did — I consider that to be defrauding the workers,” one former Bolt worker raged. “I’ve been lied to and manipulated.” 

“We couldn’t consider that they’d just stiff us,” one other ex-employee said. “I feel violated.” 

After The Post contacted Bolt for this story, an organization spokesperson said: “Arrangements are already being made to compensate the workers in the subsequent few days.” 

Days later, the corporate paid out employees. Two ex-employees said they felt Bolt would never have paid them in the event that they didn’t take their story to the media, although Bolt insisted that the corporate had at all times planned to pay them.

‘Revolutionize transportation’

Bolt Mobility was co-founded in 2018 by Usain Bolt and Miami-based entrepreneur Bita Sarah Haynes, with a mission to “revolutionize transportation through secure, smart and sustainable transit solutions.” 

The corporate’s early backers included Hanyes’ brother, Shervin Pishevar, who made a fortune from early investments in Uber and Airbnb and sat on Bolt’s board. Prior to Bolt, Pishevar sat on the board Virgin Hyperloop, but stepped down in 2017 after he was accused of sexual misconduct. Pishevar denied the accusations on the time and didn’t reply to requests for comment for this story.

While Usain Bolt was listed as a co-founder, the eight-time Olympic gold medalist worked more as a spokesperson than a decision-making executive, sources near the corporate said. His involvement included making recordings of his voice that will play through the speakers of scooters to offer riders instructions. The sprinter also visited filmed an commercial to advertise his namesake company and traveled to Latest York City hall in 2019 to induce lawmakers to legalize e-scooters.  

Usain BoltBolt visited Latest York City Hall in 2019 to advertise Bolt. Getty Images

“I’m an Olympian so I find out about getting around quickly,” the athlete quipped on the time.

But Bolt — to not be confused with an Estonian transportation startup, a San Francisco payments company and a Latest York insurance firm that each one share the identical name — was not chosen to take part in Latest York City’s shared electric scooter pilot last 12 months. The Department of Transportation granted licenses to a few rivals — Bird, Lime and Veo — that allowed the businesses to operate shared scooters in several Bronx neighborhoods. 

Bolt ended up shifting its efforts to smaller markets, deploying scooters and e-bikes in cities like Portland, Burlington, St. Augustine, Florida; and Richmond, Virginia. 

While Usain Bolt remains to be listed as a co-founder on the corporate’s site, the legendary sprinter stopped appearing at Bolt events and in additional ads because the corporate was reluctant to pay the looks fee that he charged, an organization source said. 

Usain Bolt’s agent, Ricky Simms, didn’t reply to requests for comment. 

BoltBolt operated scooters and bikes in cities like Burlington, Vermont and Portland, Oregon. Getty Images

‘Things are beginning to burn down’

Bolt began hitting the skids in late 2021, when the corporate missed rent payments on its important warehouse in Birmingham, Alabama, one ex-employee said. A sheriff even showed as much as the ability with an eviction notice, but management resolved issues with the owner by February, in accordance with the worker.

In March, Bolt put out a press release announcing it had secured a “strategic investment” from Ram Charan, a chemical company based in Chennai, India. The businesses didn’t disclose the dimensions of the investment, but said it will help Bolt access “cutting-edge solid state battery technology.”

But even after the press release, Bolt appeared to still be having funding problems, in accordance with ex-employees. 

In April, the sheriff showed up on the Birmingham warehouse again and because the company’s vendors and contractors began complaining about not getting paid, in accordance with the ex-employee. Managers nonetheless assured employees that cash was on the way in which. 

“The writing’s on the wall,” a former worker said of the mood in April and May. “But there’s at all times this plausible explanation: ‘The cash’s on the way in which, we’re just waiting to be approved… there have been at all times reassurances.”  

When a bunch of lawyers become involved’

In June, Bolt missed biweekly payroll twice, causing employees to panic. In early July, CEO Ignacio Tzoumas told employees the corporate was shutting down, but the corporate apparently didn’t notify local officials. 

BoltUsain Bolt recorded his voice for Bolt scooters. Getty Images

“Unfortunately, Bolt apparently went out of business without prior notification or removal of their capital equipment from city property,” Richmond, California Mayor Tom Butt griped in July. “The City is coming up with a plan to remove all of the abandoned equipment.” 

Ex-employees say Tzoumas, other executives and Bolt’s board largely went silent after the corporate shut down, leaving them wondering in the event that they would ever receive their back pay. 

Meanwhile, local governments and vendors that hadn’t been paid began confiscating Bolt’s equipment with the permission of company executives, ex-employees said. 

Tzoumas told The Post that Bolt is suing Ram Charan for allegedly backing out of the deal, but refused to offer details of the lawsuit. Tzoumas and Bolt didn’t answer detailed questions for this story. 

“When it becomes a legal matter you don’t want to actually speak about this stuff because we’re going through legal issues with that investor,” Tzoumas told The Post in August, adding that his lawyers had told him to “to not even call you guys back.” 

“That is what happens when a bunch of lawyers become involved, they’re like, ‘Don’t say anything until we get a full understanding of how we’re going to pursue this,’” Tzoumas added. “I just felt prefer it’s higher to speak what we’re doing than to say absolutely nothing.”

Days later, Tzoumas called a gathering with employees, where he urged them to stop speaking with The Post and said he would get them their paychecks.

Ram Charan owner Kaushik Palicha didn’t reply to emailed questions. 

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