This Ridesharing Service You've Never Heard of Has 10 Million Members and Counting
In major U.S. cities à la New York and San Francisco, services such as Uber that connect people with nearby taxi drivers via smartphone, are really catching on. But across the pond, there’s an Uber for long-distance trips called BlaBlaCar that’s making big waves of its own.
If you live in the U.S., there’s a fairly good chance that you have never heard of it before. But BlaBlaCar, founded in 2009, has 10 million members and is growing quickly.
This week, the company introduced its iPhone and Android app in Turkey. Already, the Paris-headquartered service is operating in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Russia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
BlaBlaCar members traveling between cities can rent a seat in a driver’s car. Passengers pay the driver to offset costs, but only enough to offset costs -- the driver is not allowed to make a profit with the car-pooling service. It’s advertised as both a more economical and environmentally-friendly traveling option.
“Collaborating to share costs makes clear financial sense, plus, it’s a positive behaviour for society at large, reducing congestion and dependency on vehicle ownership,” said founder and CEO Frédéric Mazzella, in a statement.
Related: Richard Branson Gets Into Carpooling
Currently, 2 million BlaBlaCar members drive 200 miles together each month. Drivers and passengers specify conditions they prefer on long trips, including whether travelers like to listen to music, allow smoking and accommodate animals. Drivers and passengers can also specify the amount they like to talk on long trips by the number of “bla’s” specified on their member profile, thus the company name. For female passengers or drivers who are apprehensive to get into a car with a man they haven’t met before, there is a “Ladies Only” option available.
So far, BlaBlaCar has focused growth in Europe and emerging economies. It’s unclear whether the company will be available in the U.S. at any time in the near future. “While we have no immediate plans to launch in the U.S., we will focus on every large market where ground transport can be disrupted,” says Nicolas Brusson, BlaBlaCar COO and co-founder, in an emailed statement.
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.