GoBolt co-founder Mark Ang, who graduated from Rotman Commerce in 2017, says he and co-founder Heindrik Bernabe, an alum of U of T Engineering, “wanted to be change-makers in an antiquated industry” (photo by Kemeisha McDonald)

What started as a side hustle for University of Toronto graduate Mark Ang has since evolved into a multi-million-dollar third-party logistics company – one that aims to have a positive impact on the planet by using electric vehicles for package deliveries.

Ang’s startup GoBolt has raised more than US$160 million from investors to support expansion of its fulfillment, last-mile delivery and returns management services to major urban areas across Canada and the United States.

It’s also using the funding to increase the percentage of electric vehicles (EVs) it has on the road.

“I always tell the team, ‘We need to be fiercely competitive to win enough volume to have an environmental impact,’” says Ang, who earned his bachelor of commerce degree from U of T in 2017 as a member of Trinity College.

GoBolt estimates that its approach currently prevents 20 tonnes of CO2 emissions each month, a number that increases as it adds more EVs to its fleet. The company also invests in tree planting and other restorative projects to sequester the emissions GoBolt does produce, with the goal of being carbon neutral by the end of 2023.

“What we do today is a great start, and it is a beacon for people, but it’s not nearly enough to make a difference globally,” says Ang. “We’re fiercely competitive in making this business a multi-billion-dollar global enterprise – and then we can start to effect real change.”

GoBolt Co-Founders Mark Ang and Heindrik Bernabe with one of their electric delivery vehicles (photo by Kemeisha McDonald)

The story of GoBolt began when Ang was a U of T undergraduate student in Rotman Commerce. He founded Second Closet, a storage service aimed at international students who needed to clear out their dorm rooms for the summer. Ang’s team rented trucks and scurried around campus to collect hundreds of boxes and random items. It was a lot of driving, a lot of parking tickets and a lot of stairs.

By offering a convenient service for a fraction of its competitors’ prices and an effective, flyer-based direct marketing campaign, the venture soon experienced rapid growth. Within two weeks, Second Closet was making $20,000 a month – pushing its resources to the limit.

“Every year got progressively crazier,” says Ang. “We had a dozen five-tonne trucks around U of T every day in April and September. We would do thousands of pickups. It was just bananas.”

They needed help and they needed it fast.

Enter Michael Hyatt of the Creative Destruction Lab, a seed-stage accelerator that was founded at the Rotman School of Management.

The angel investor raised US$500,000 for Second Closet in a single day.

“In the realm of exceptional founders, Mark stands out as an evangelist who possesses the acumen to drive the business forward,” says Hyatt, entrepreneur and CDL founding partner who sits on GoBolt’s board of directors.

“Mark’s intelligence and adeptness at building relationships were readily apparent. His ability to hustle and propel the business forward was instrumental in leveraging the connections within CDL.”

Hyatt also connected Ang with U of T engineering student Heindrik Bernabe, who went on to become a GoBolt programmer, co-founder and CTO.

The business thrived but Ang and Bernabe still weren’t satisfied.

“I didn’t want our legacy to be that we help people hoard their stuff more efficiently,” says Ang.

Ang and Bernabe wanted to make a difference in the world, and so, with their fleet of trucks from Second Closet, they pivoted to logistics and shipping with GoBolt. At the time, using EVs commercially was a novel idea, but the newly formed GoBolt already had relationships with EV makers in Ontario and Quebec, as well as goods producers who cared about the fate of freight and addressing climate change.

“We wanted to be a 21st-century business for 21st-century brands, shoppers and merchants,” says Ang, whose clients include Endy mattresses and Frank And Oak apparel.

“We wanted to be change-makers in an antiquated industry.”

GoBolt’s made-in-Canada electric delivery vehicles can travel up to 400 kilometres on a single charge, depending on the payload and the EV battery’s natural enemy – freezing weather. But range is just a minor speed bump as technology improves and GoBolt adds service hubs and charging stations on its busiest routes.

“We’re excited about what we’re doing,” says Ang. “We don’t feel super altruistic about it – we just know it’s the right thing to do.”