A little more than a year after announcing a $100 million mega-round, we’re hearing from multiple sources that long-distance ride-sharing platform BlaBlaCar is in the process of raising another round with Insight Venture Partners. TechCrunch has learned that the French startup is raising $160 million at a post-money valuation of $1.2 billion.
Insight Venture Partners is leading the round with a significant syndicate of business angels. This Series D round values the company above $1 billion for the first time. A source said that the deal has already closed.
As a reminder, BlaBlaCar is a marketplace where you can find a driver who is driving from one city to another and book a seat in advance. It connects people with empty seats with riders. Drivers can make a bit of money while riders can travel for cheap. Like Airbnb, the company takes a small cut on every ride (currently around 15-20 percent).
BlaBlaCar also has a significant network effect. The more people use it, the more rides you will find even at the last minute, and even if you are going from a tiny city to another tiny city. It is sometimes much more effective and cheaper than a train ride.
Last year when the company announced its previous round of funding, BlaBlaCar operated in 12 countries and had 8 million members. It is now available in 17 countries, including in non-European countries, such as India and Mexico. The company also acquired its biggest competitor Carpooling.com and its 6 million members.
As BlaBlaCar needs to tweak its model a bit for every country and comply with local regulators, it has many local offices focused on a particular market in Madrid, Milan, Warsaw, Hamburg, London, Moscow, Istanbul, New Delhi, Budapest and Mexico DF. That’s why the company needs a lot of cash to fuel its aggressive expansion strategy.
While Uber encountered a few bumps along the road in France, BlaBlaCar doesn’t face any legal issue as it promotes a revenue sharing model, and not a profit-seeking model — it’s like asking for your friends to chip in for gas. A 200-mile ride costs $25 on average.
India is obviously a big potential as trains are slow and it is one of the most densely populated area in the world, but the company has been around for much longer in Europe — and BlaBlaCar is still beating all its key performance indicators in Europe. Growth in France, which the team considered as a mature market, is still accelerating. And then, there is the U.S.
Every time I’ve asked about a potential expansion to the U.S., the company has given me the same answer with multiple reasons why it doesn’t make sense to go the U.S. — gas is cheap, and cities are too big and too far away from each other. But maybe this new round will make the company change its mind.