For our international audience, last July, BlaBlaCar popped out of nowhere and scored a massive $100 million round led by Index Ventures. Frédéric Mazzella’s startup is creating a global ride-sharing marketplace for long distance rides — and it’s working. His story is one of the most impressive comeback story of the French tech ecosystem. We are very lucky to welcome him on stage at Disrupt London. I’ll interview him on Tuesday, October 21 at 5:35pm, and I hope you’ll join us.
While the terms of BlaBlaCar’s recent funding round were undisclosed, BlaBlaCar is a billion-dollar startup in the making. Last July, the company reported 8 million members in 12 countries, and growth is still going strong. It just opened its marketplace in Turkey and added 2 million members in 2 months.
In other words, BlaBlaCar seems unstoppable. In this land-grabbing industry, the company is well-positioned to become the leading player in many countries. On BlaBlaCar, you can find a driver who is driving from one city to another and book a seat in advance. Drivers can make a bit of money while riders can travel for cheap. The company takes a 10 percent cut on average. And the bigger BlaBlaCar becomes, the more likely it is to find a ride from a small city to another.
Yet, the startup faces tough competition in the U.K., and is still mostly available in Europe. When I last asked if the U.S. was on the radar, the company told me that it was not a priority as gas is cheap, and cities are too big and too far away from each other. Finally, it is always hard to scale a company when you experience this kind of growth and need to have many offices in many different countries.
For all these reasons, BlaBlaCar needs a strong executive team. In this regard, BlaBlaCar’s backstory is very representative. BlaBlaCar’s original website Covoiturage.fr opened in 2004. Whatever the team tried, it didn’t stick — not enough people were using the platform.
But persistence was the right move and it is paying off ten years later. That’s the main reason why the BlaBlaCar team is so hungry and opening new countries so quickly. There is no time, because the company has already been around for years.
BlaBlaCar’s success comes after another French success — Criteo’s successful IPO on the NASDAQ. As Criteo is an advertising technology company, it’s encouraging to see something completely different coming out of the French tech ecosystem. This time, it’s a community-powered marketplace.
These two companies prove that the French tech ecosystem can create global leaders. Now, Mazzella will have to tell us whether he thinks BlaBlaCar and Criteo are one-off successes, or whether we are going to see new unicorns coming out of the French tech scene in the coming years.