We can continue to wonder, even when we are old French Tech workers. BlaBlacar, a car-sharing specialist, has just completed its eighth fundraiser since its inception in 2006. But the latter is atypical because of its modest amount – $ 15 million – and the investor – the World Finance Corporation (IFC).
This institution is a structure of the World Bank, which is better known for its programs to combat hunger or disability than for its investments in joint stock companies. The World Finance Corporation (IFC) is involved, in particular, in investing money in private projects in developing countries. In 2021, it infused $ 31.5 billion (loans, investments, etc.).
Mobility, a sector that combines social and environmental issues, is one of its prerogatives. For example, IFC acquired a stake in Bolt, an Estonian unicorn with a strong presence in Africa, Gojek, an important travel platform in Southeast Asia, and Tembici, a young self-service electric bicycle company based in Brazil.
In addition to car-sharing, BlaBlaCar has developed a solution that helps bus players switch to digital by promoting online booking rather than checkout. In total, BlaBlaCar cooperates with 122 bus companies.
In this country, the distances between large cities are very large. “There was the development of air transport and private cars, but not trains,” said IFC Director Makhtar Diop. Public services and buses are likely to attract a large public in search of low-cost modes of transport. At this stage, BlaBlacar’s activities in Brazil are not profitable.
Strong international presence
Since its inception, BlaBlacar has had global ambitions. In total, the unicorn operates in 22 countries, including developing countries, where only a few Next40 nuggets will try their luck (India, Mexico, Turkey, Brazil, etc.). “60% of our activities take place outside Europe,” recalls Nicolas Brusson. “We have been looking for partners in these markets for several years,” the leader continued, recalling that his historical investors (Isai, Accel, Index, Insight Venture Partners, etc.) are more focused on Western countries.
Historically, BlaBlaCar has also established itself well in Eastern Europe. In 2019, the company, for example, acquired Busfor, a specialist in the bus market of Russia and Ukraine. After the war, the unicorn claims to have frozen its investment in the country, led by Vladimir Putin. But the service continues to work there, as in Ukraine.
“These last two years have been a thesis of humility for us because we have been shocked by external macroeconomic shocks,” said Nicolas Brusson. The pandemic has caused a sharp drop in travel. However, activity has resumed in recent months amid lifting health restrictions and rising oil prices, further encouraging drivers to share their cars.
The company claims that since April it is aware of higher levels of bookings than in 2019, but does not report its turnover. Sixteen years after its founding, it is not too late to surprise positively in terms of financial transparency.