From aspiring mathematician to running Europe’s largest scooter-sharing business — meet Dmitri Pivovarov
Jul 25, 2023
Dmitri Pivovarov is a VP at Bolt and a prominent figure in the micromobility world. You may have seen him on stage at conferences or sparking debates on his LinkedIn profile.
But what’s he like away from scooters?
For Bolt’s 10th anniversary, we sat down with Dmitri to discuss his journey from product manager to VP and life outside the office.
“When I grow up, I want to be a…”
Remember dreaming of what you wanted to be when you grew up? Dmitri certainly does. As a teenager, he set his sights on becoming a professional mathematician.
After graduating high school, Dmitri applied to the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and aced the maths exam but struggled with physics. Eventually, he redirected his focus towards something more hands-on — IT.
Stepping into the shoes of a software developer
Even before starting university, Dmitri had tried designing and building websites. “I mostly learned by doing”, he says.
And this skill certainly came in handy when he enrolled at the Tallinn University of Technology to study Business Information Technology, later graduating cum laude.
When asked if his diploma determined his career path, Dmitri says, “Education does play a role in hiring early in a career. Although I started as a software engineer, my studies equipped me with the necessary knowledge of fundamentals to comprehend any technology.”
Joining Bolt Taxify as a Product Manager
The story of Dmitri joining Bolt, then Taxify, is “quite prosaic”.
When the company he worked for was acquired, recruiters started approaching him. And after various interviews, he chose a product manager position at Estonian ride-hailing company, Taxify, which didn’t even have a product team back then.
The opportunity to build a team from scratch excited Dmitri, and 5 years later, his proudest professional moment at Bolt has been building the team he has now — “the right people with the right mindset and values in place”.
Taking on scooters
At first, Dmitri managed every aspect of the ride-hailing product — rider and driver apps, maps, back-end, admin tools, and more. But a new chapter in his career began a few months later when we launched our first scooters in Paris, France.
With France being the first country in which we operated scooters, there were many challenges. “It was messy, to say the least,” admits Dmitri smiling. As a product manager, he tried to help with the operational side and streamline processes but ended up taking on the whole business line.
The fondest memory
Soon after the Paris launch, Dmitri and the team realised the French market wasn’t right for Bolt’s business model at the time and redirected their efforts to Bolt’s home country, Estonia and the neighbouring Baltic States.
When asked about his fondest memory of working at Bolt, Dmitri recalls these first days:
“The early scooter launches were wild! For example, the trucks with scooters came from Paris to Tallinn before we managed to sign any contracts with warehouses. Truck drivers parked in front of our office and threatened to unload the pallets directly on the street.
While I was finding contractors and signing contracts, every Bolt employee volunteered to help with anything they could. Great times!”
Helping Bolt become the number 1 scooter operator in Europe
After great times came even greater ones! With Dmitri on board, Bolt quickly became Europe’s number-one scooter operator in terms of rides taken and geographic coverage.
“We scaled only after figuring out how to run a profitable business”, says Dmitri.
Reaching this milestone is his greatest accomplishment to date. Dmitri makes it clear that he couldn’t have done it without the team:
“If you want to win, find the right people for your team first.”
The biggest challenge of working at Bolt
With over 100 million customers in more than 45 countries across Europe and Africa, Bolt continues to grow and scale at the speed of a start-up.
When working at Bolt, one must keep up the fast pace and be ready to roll up their sleeves. It might not be the right fit for everyone, but it certainly is for Dmitri. In fact, his biggest challenge working at Bolt is conversely not having “enough resources to get everything done”.
“It’s a challenge and a blessing at the same time”, Dmitri says. “On the one hand, there’s a lot more I’d like to do than the resources allow. But on the other, I have no choice but to focus on the highest impact areas and achieve more with less”.
On becoming VP and not being the smartest person in the room
Dmitri’s been playing his cards right but is humble about it. Though his title of Vice-President (VP) at Bolt reflects his success, he knows he didn’t do it alone.
“I owe everything to my parents. They provided my brother and me with the best possible learning opportunities, even when times were hard — engraining the values of continuous learning, frugality, and work ethic”.
Another person who has greatly influenced Dmitri is his long-time colleague and trusted friend, President at Bolt, Jevgeni Kabanov (JK).
“JK’s always been an inexhaustible source of wisdom, providing actionable solutions for any problem you might throw at him. With JK, you’re never the smartest person in the room — there’s always something to learn from him!”
Advice on climbing the ladder of success
In the tradition of learning from the best, we asked Dmitri for insights on succeeding professionally.
“Every path is different, so I can’t tell you what to do. Still, I can advise you on what not to do — don’t waste your time doing mediocre work! Whatever the task is, try to make the most out of it and never choose the path of least resistance.”
Dmitri’s biggest professional regret has been working in a low-performance culture prior to joining Bolt. “If the work isn’t challenging enough, you’re not growing professionally and wasting your time. It took me a while to realise that”.
Free time and work-life balance
Outside the office, Dmitri enjoys spending time with his family and playing ice hockey. When asked if a work-life balance is possible, he says:
“Not in the common sense of the 9–5 job, but it is possible. The key is to prioritise what’s important and dedicate time to it. Where you invest your time reflects your true priorities. I might do long hours during the week, but never on the weekends at the expense of family time.”
Keeping stress at bay
Dmitri’s role is demanding in many different ways. And he’s happy to share his secrets for controlling stress:
Never sacrifice sleep;
Set boundaries, as there’s always more work to be done;
Limit the number of things to worry about — identify and focus on a few key tasks for the day, quarter, and the next 5–10 years.
Another hack for alleviating stress is reading. And Dmitri recommends these 4 books:
“Envisioning Information” by Ed Tufte, for the fundamental principles of information presentation and design;
“Start with NO” by Jim Camp, for acing any negotiation;
“Before your kids drive you crazy” by Nigel Latta, for understanding human psychology in general;
“Intelligent Investor” by Ben Graham for understanding what is a good business and how not to go along with the hype.
What does the future hold for Dmitri? We could’ve asked the crystal ball, but instead, we asked him.
“We aim to become the best micromobility and car-sharing operator in the industry. It’s not a one-off project, but the North Star. And the key to long-haul success is to have the right team and the right culture in place. Everything else is the result of that. Or as Bill Welsh puts it: the score takes care of itself.”
If Dmitri’s story inspired you and working at an exciting, dynamic, fast-paced company feels right, we’re waiting for you!
Dmitri’s team is complete for now, but worry not — there are plenty of open vacancies, from entry-level to top-level management. Check out our Careers page and apply!