How to identify an opportunity from a problem | The origins of BlaBlaCar

Can you imagine procrastinating the purchase of a train ticket resulting in the creation of a company valued at 2 billion dollars? BlaBlaCar today has more than 40 million users in more than 20 countries worldwide.

This is the story of Bla Bla Car

At Christmas 2003, Frederic Mazzella, a young French student, was supposed to travel from Paris to Vendee to spend the holidays with his family. But he had a problem: He was late in buying his ticket.

On his way to the Paris station, he found that all the trains were packed. He had to ask his younger sister, who lived about 100km from Paris, to pick him up in the capital and take him to his parents' home.

Luckily she agreed and they made the journey together.

During the trip to Vendee (about 400km by freeway) Frederic noticed something that caught his attention as he looked out of the window. Many drivers were traveling alone.

"What a complete waste of resources!" was the first thing he thought. "Thousands of those cars are headed for the same destination as me."

Trains are full, cars are empty.

How can it be that there is no way to connect individuals traveling to the same destination who would like to share expenses?"




Validation of an emerging need

There was a need: Traveling by car alone costs a lot of money. Fuel is expensive, and besides, on a trip of hundreds of kilometers, traveling alone becomes boring at times.

Car sharing is an economical way to get around, and it has the social component of connecting with other travelers. Bingo. Like all startups BlaBlaCar was not called that at the beginning.

In 2006 was born
Covoiturage.frwas created in 2006, aimed only at residents of France. Drivers registered with their name, email and phone number.

They reached their first ten thousand users very quickly and the programmer Francis Nappez joined the team to launch the app for android.

Two things happened in 2007 that had a direct impact on the company's success:

- The first iPhone is launched.

- A strike is declared on the French railway network.

Carpooling was a trend and positioning yourself early in a growing market is a great competitive advantage. Perfect timing. Since the rail strike the platform became increasingly popular and they were able to grow by leveraging 100% on bootstrapping.

Expansion and first rounds

In June 2009, they had more than 200,000 users in the country and were highly praised in the French press.

And then came their first round of investment, in which they raised about 600,000 euros.

As the transactions between individuals were free, the company did not collect much revenue and was not profitable. However, they were growing at an exorbitant rate.

That year the expansion began: They arrived in Spain under the name of

In 2010 the company raised €1.2M in its second round of investment and had an 85% market share.

Carpooling services were becoming increasingly popular among travelers.

The platform had more than 750,000 users, but they needed to grow even more if they wanted to become a self-sustaining business.

As a business based on the collaborative economy, it required many users sharing a ride for it to really work.

They decided it was time to monetize their services: Travelers had to select a payment method and the company would charge a small fee for each ride closed through the platform.

To test this model, they first applied it in a small town in France before replicating it globally.

They found that this method not only increased the company's revenue but also led to a noticeable drop in the trip cancellation rate from 35% to 3%. a noticeable drop in the trip cancellation rate from 35% to 3%.

In June 2011, they reached 1 million users and had an average of 300,000 customers per month. It was time to land in the United Kingdom.

To the moon 🚀

Mazzella sent a list of 30 possible names to friends and family asking them which they thought was easiest for English-speaking users to remember.

The undisputed winner was BlaBlaCar.

The expansion made the company's name change definitive, reflecting the social life behind every carpool.

In January 2012 they raised ten million euros, which allowed them to begin their acquisition strategy by purchasing PostinAutoItalian carpooling platform.

During 2012, BlaBlaCar also landed in Portugal, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland and Belgium. Expansion in Europe was a success.

Its main strategy to become a market leader was to arrive before other companies offered similar services in countries where they did not yet operate.

In 2013 they unified the name for all countries. Goodbye to Comuto, Au Revoir to Covoiturage.

In April of that year, BlaBlaCar would arrive in Germany and in July 2014 they raised 100 million in their Series C, led by Index Ventures.

Between 2014 and 2015, they continued to expand worldwide, reaching Russia, Ukraine, India, Turkey and Mexico.

The main difference with other transportation services, such as Uber or Cabify, is that BlaBlaCar seeks to connect people who were going to make that trip anyway.

Those travelers who prefer to share the experience and also the travel expenses.

Since 2006, many carpooling platforms have emerged around the world, but BlaBlaCar has undoubtedly marked a before and after in the sector.


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