The carpooling race in Europe has yet to produce a definitive winner, as Germany’s Carpooling.com and France’s BlaBlaCar continue to go head-to-head. Today, the latter is making its next move: BlaBlaCar is riding into Russia and the Ukraine — in part via an acquisition of local player, Podorozhniki. The price remains undisclosed.
It’s actually the fourth time BlaBlaCar has expanded via acquisition, although this is the first time outside of the European Union.
The company cites Podorozhniki’s early traction in the CIS market and its strong three-person team, led by founder Aleksey Lazorenko, as reasons for the purchase, and continuation of a strategy to gobble up the best local talent as a means to enter new markets. Also of note, Podorozhniki is backed by the Russian seed investor Arkady Moreynis.
Founded in 2006, BlaBlaCar taps into the collaborative consumption phenomenon — long before anybody called it that — by offering a carpooling or ridesharing marketplace that connects drivers with empty seats to paying passengers, helping to offset long distance travel costs.
Drivers can charge passengers through BlaBlaCar or directly, while there are a number of security mechanisms, such as phone number authentication and user ratings of members, resulting in trust being an important element of its platform.
In January last year, the Paris-headquartered startup raised an additional $10 million from Accel Partners, and existing investors ISAI and Cabiedes Partners, specifically for European expansion. It operates country-specific sites for the UK, France, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Italy, Germany — and now Russia and the Ukraine.
Noteworthy is that rival Carpooling.com doesn’t yet have a Russian language property, so isn’t targeting the CIS region specifically. In terms of overall numbers, BlaBlaCar currently claims 6 million members, up from 3 million last April, no doubt helped by its recent acquisitions, with 1 million people make journeys using its site per-month. In contrast, Carpooling.com claims over 5 million members, with 1.3 million people carpooling each month.