France’s BlaBlaCar Buys Two Carpooling Rivals

BlaBlaCar requires users to create a profile describing their car and a series of personal characteristics such as tolerance to pets.
DPA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

French intercity ride-sharing platform BlaBlaCar said Wednesday it acquired German peer carpooling.com and Hungary-based Autohop, growing its user base to more than 20 million members.

BlaBlaCar paid a few tens of millions of euros for the companies, a person close to the matter said.

The acquisition of the two smaller rivals, which added about 5 million users to its network, allows BlaBlaCar to strengthen its position in the burgeoning segment of the sharing economy. In terms of revenue, the mobility sector is one of the fastest-growing segments of the shared economy, says Roland Berger Strategy Consultants.

With the acquisition of Carpooling, known as mitfahrgelegenheit.de in Germany, BlaBlaCar broadens its existing community in Germany.  It now transports well over 2 million passengers each month with the doubling each year, the company said.

BlaBlaCar’s city-to-city transport service, which connects people who need to travel long distances with drivers already going the same way, has been attracting more and more riders across Europe as an alternative to mass transit. The company’s site and mobile apps connects drivers with passengers, who travel together and share costs. Each passenger makes a contribution for his seat, and drivers cover their fuel and tolls costs. BlaBlaCar said.

Unlike Uber, BlaBlaCar is not engaged in regulatory battles, even though its drivers are unlicensed, because it is not considered a taxi company. The fees charged by drivers are low and generally allow them to share costs rather than make profits. BlaBlaCar connects drivers and passengers and takes a cut that fluctuates around 15%.

“These acquisitions demonstrate that the sharing economy is consolidating,” said Nicolas Brusson, co-founder and COO of BlaBlaCar.

Founded in 2001 and backed by Daimler and venture capital firm Earlybird, carpooling.com is the oldest long-distance service in Germany and the world’s second-largest long-distance ridesharing service after BlaBlaCar. Until now it has been the French company’s biggest German competitor.

“The whole carpooling.com team in Munich is looking forward to working with the global BlaBlaCar team and, together, taking city-to-city ridesharing to the next level,” said Markus Barnikel, CEO of carpooling.com.

BlaBlaCar had already expanded beyond France’s borders, recruiting over 20 million members in 18 markets across Europe over the past three years.

Prior to Wednesday’s deal, it carried out four other acquisitions in the past three years, in Italy, Poland, France and Russia.

In January, the company launched its service in India and is planning to expand in Latin America.

While not planning an expansion to the U.S. in the short-term, such a move would be conceivable “in the mid-term horizon,” said Brusson.

Last summer, BlaBlaCar raised $100 million from European and U.S. venture-capital firms including Index Ventures and Accel Partners—one of the largest venture investments in a French startup.

AutoHop will bring four new countries — Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Croatia — into the BlaBlaCar network, BlaBlaCar said.

Inti Landauro contributed to this report.