BlaBlaCar, a marketplace for city-to-city ridesharing, is acquiring its German competitor Carpooling.com, as well as Hungary-based competitor AutoHop. This is no surprise when you know the French company’s aggressive expansion strategy. While the terms of the deal are undisclosed, Carpooling.com definitely represents an important acquisition for the French company.
BlaBlaCar is a marketplace where 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. It has the same business model as Airbnb — you pay or get money every time you ride or drive, and the company takes a 10 percent cut on average.
As a reminder, BlaBlaCar is one of the most promising French startups. It raised a massive $100 million round last summer to create a global long distance ride-sharing network.
At the time, COO Nicolas Brusson explained to me in great detail how BlaBlaCar’s expansion strategy worked. “The way we build our international expansion is with local offices,” Brusson told me. “We have an office in London, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, Warsaw… We made a lot of small acquisitions because that’s the best way to find talented entrepreneurs who are passionate about this industry. That’s how we launched in Italy, Germany, Poland and Russia.”
But Carpooling.com isn’t just a small local competitor as the site had 6 million members before the acquisition, and BlaBlaCar is already available in Carpooling.com’s home market Germany. It was the second largest ride-sharing platform after BlaBlaCar. Now it’s pretty clear why BlaBlaCar needed all this cash last year — the company wants to take over as many markets as possible, and as quickly as possible.
After these two deals, BlaBlaCar now has 20 million members in 18 markets mostly in Europe — India was the company’s first expansion beyond Europe. In October, BlaBlaCar CEO Frédéric Mazzella told me that the company arranges 2 million rides per month.
The teams working for both AutoHop and Carpooling.com will keep working for their new overlords. Their offices will become local headquarters, and the BlaBlaCar brand should probably replace the old startup names.
Carpooling.com’s latest founding round was a $10 million Series C round led by carmaker Daimler and joined by existing investor Earlybird. The company was founded in 2001, and it must have been hard for BlaBlaCar to compete against such a long-standing local competitor in Germany.
AutoHop was operating in many Central and Eastern Europe and was based in Budapest. With today’s acquisition, BlaBlaCar is expanding to Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Croatia. AutoHop’s founders will head BlaBlaCar’s new regional office in Budapest.
It’s pretty clear that nobody can challenge BlaBlaCar in Europe after today’s acquisitions. But the company’s international expansion is BlaBlaCar’s next big challenge. It remains to be seen whether BlaBlaCar can successfully bring its model to remote countries, way beyond Europe.