Meet BlaBlaCar, The Billion Dollar Ride Sharing Giant That’s Actually Legal

BlaBlaCar is taking over the world of ride sharing right under the noses of Uber and Lyft. The ride sharing service, which many have never heard of, is making headlines across Europe and Asia where Uber is either struggling to find its footing or facing attacks by disgruntled taxi unions and government backed transport industries.

The emerging service marks a new dawn in ride sharing that’s free of regulatory, pricing and safety concerns.

The long distance ride sharing app is raising another round of investment capital through Insight venture partners. The France based service, which only last year completed a $100 million mega investment round, seeks to raise $160 million in the latest round, setting its valuation at $1.2 billion.

The new Series D round will see more foreign investors jump in on the rising service. Currently, investors in the company include Accel Partners, Index Venture, Lead Edge Capital and ISAI.

BlaBlacar is an app-based platform where commuters can book seats next to drivers driving to long distance cities.

Simply put, it connects people with empty car seats, taking a small cut on every empty seat, like Airbnb. The service offers a cost sharing model where instead of the driver seeking a profit, he and the commuters simply share the cost of transportation. The company sets caps on the prices of distances. An average ride is 200 miles with the fare capped at $25.

This strategy, similar to Google’s RideWith project, puts it solidly on-side with regulators.

BlaBlaCar COO Nicolas Brusson, said of their service, “What we’re doing is building a massive transport network out of all of these empty seats in cars. There are more seats available between Berlin and Munich in cars, for example, than there are train seats or bus seats.”

The company, founded in 2006 in France by Stanford educated Frederic Mazzella, branched out of France in 2012 and now operates in 17 countries including Mexico and India. It has over 9 million registered users with over a million people using its service every day.

The company is growing by 200 per cent every year. In its first year in Germany, it had registered over 1 million users while its Russian entry completely blew up with 250,000 registrations in three months.

Brusson said, “What we’re building is more fundamental than what we’re doing in France. If you look at Russia and Turkey and other emerging markets, we start linking cities that don’t even have trains. We are enabling a layer of infrastructure that isn’t there.”

The service has also been acquiring competition such as, with its 6 million members, Postoinauto in Italy and Ukraine’s Podorozhniki. The company is now focused on heavier international expansion in the coming months.

Through the fee model, the service has been able to expand without the plague of disrupting taxi unions and established transport industries, unlike Uber and co.

All over Europe and China, Uber is the subject of protests, even attacks, and has been banned in Seoul and regulated in Germany. Lyft is struggling to get approval in New York.

The new round of funding will financially enable the BlaBlaCar to spread its wings much wider across the globe. This will definitely mean trouble for America’s Uber and China’s Didi Kuaidi, who have a much different model that is profit based and is extravagant for many travellers.

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