BlaBlaCar: A Better Way for Everyone to Get Places
The number of those who leave their humble nests for life in the capital is on the rise. While coming home for the holidays will always be a good idea, traffic options to the outskirts of a country are anything but. During the holiday season, countless families are separated from their loved ones due to lack of transport options.
The very same thing happened to Fred Mazzela; he found himself stuck in Paris with no transport home - twice. The miracle solution presented itself when his sister came to pick him up.
Fred’s frustration led him to create BlaBlaCar, an online alternative transport platform. Blabla Car is the tie that binds drivers and passengers, enabling them to share a ride. It’s faster, cheaper and far friendlier than the train, bus or any other means of transportation. Defined as a long-distance carpooling service, the platform takes its 90 million users to many joint destinations!
Want to join along for the ride? Here’s how a brilliant Frenchman re-envisioned the way people communicate - and commute.
Le Petit Entrepreneur
Fred was born on 9 March 1976 in the imperial province of Nantes, France. He grew up surrounded by a supportive and loving family. His parents planted the love for the French ethereal music culture - and the world at that - in Fred early on.As a result, he spent his childhood being tutored in classical music, which made him a piano virtuoso.
Apart from nurturing his artistic side, Fred simultaneously studied at the best schools in France. Fred's best teenage memories happened at the Lycee Henri IV secondary school, where Fred majored in math, physics, and chemistry. Here, he was also given a Master of Physics award. With a spotless portfolio, Fred secured himself a visa to the best university, too.
A Mile in His Student Shoes
Thanks to his Master of Physics award, Fred was able to score an internship. It was at the prestigious Stanford University, where he enrolled to study robotics. There, Fred kept busy with building special tools for on-duty surgeons on NASA space flights.
Even so, Fred didn’t feel he had done enough, therefore, he enrolled at a Stanford’s Master's program in computer science.
When Fred evolved from a student to an independent engineer, he found his first job at Kabira, where his skills earned their spotlight. Charged with different tasks, Fred patiently built his experience as a computer engineer and learned aplenty. In the meantime, he was also a consultant for Blue Pumpkin. Come the new millennium, Fred became a research assistant for Nippon Telegraph and Telephone in Japan. Next stop on his journey to success? The boulevard of Startups.
Fred’s Merry Christmas Story
It was the winter of 2003. Fred has been stuck in Paris away from his home on Christmas day. In his 27 years, he never once missed a family Christmas before.
There he was, though, transportless - no trains waiting, no buses, nothing. The only thing Fred could count on was his sister. She spent the 500km, picked up her brother, and they headed home. On the way home, Fred began noticing that the cars heading to his hometown were more or less empty, except for drivers. It was right there and then that he got the most incredible business idea yet - to bring transport and regular folks heading home in one vehicle!
Fred realized that it would be super convenient to create a startup platform as a bridge between those offering a ride home and those in need of it. The platform was going to be super affordable compared to other options, this making it a favorite among passengers and drivers.
On Christmas Eve, Fred celebrated and then examined the transportation market to study the rivals. Going through the basics, he realized that many people were asking for a ride on forums, but drivers advertised elsewhere. This made it impossible to bring the two groups together and make the offer affordable at the same time. So, Fred thought about the possibility of letting people choose who they’ll travel with. Talk about convenience.
From Idea to Plan
Fred didn't stop at convenience. Once he returned to Paris, he called his friends Damien and Nico. Over a pack of beers and pizza, Fred briefed them on the startup idea and asked them if they wanted to code alongside him and build the platform together. Damien agreed straight away and Nico was soon to follow suit.
The three friends would work tirelessly, from 2004 to 2006. In 2006, Frederic bought the www.coivoturage.fr, a carpooling service website. Situated in Fred's living room, the trio was preparing the platform’s beta version. The friends worked tirelessly on their projects and they had all the skills but none of the funds or profits to support their business.
To help them out, even Fred's sister joined the team. At the company, she worked in communication and offered all-around support to the team. One day, Fred felt like he squeezed out all of his inspiration. To get motivated, he attended a few weekly meetups in his neighborhood, looking for something to lift up his spirits. Interestingly, it took one simple meetup for Fred to meet his soon-to-be co-founder Francis Nappes.
As an additional effort, Fred enrolled in a one-year Master's program as Business Administrator at INSEAD Business School in Fontainebleau, near Paris. There, he met his second co-founder, Nicolas Brusson.
The Strangers that Turned into Partners
In creating their platform, Fred kept busy with the product; Francis was occupied with discovering technical solutions, and Nicolas, with financing and advertising. From day one - to this day - the founders are still a power team.
BlaBla Car was launched on 16 September 2006, in Paris. Just like that, France officially got a better transport alternative. Its concept is simple as can be. Passengers and drivers meet in one place; arrange their journey; share the cost by passenger - and arrive safely at their destination.
Sail like a Spaceship
Since its launch, Blabla Car anticipated its success but not its troubles, also known as the railway strike. None of the BlaBlaCar team anticipated the strike, but they couldn’t do anything about it anymore. It was actually Fred's sister who told them of the strike and encouraged Fred to go out in public and give a statement to the press. Fred did, and noted that due to the lack of trains in the area, the Blabla Car service offered to transport passengers wherever they needed to arrive.
He made the most of the mess, and it paid off in a magnificent way!
After all was said and done, the team saw the name of their company mentioned in over 500 articles. Marketing followed next, and then, the company kept on growing and made it from 0 to 35 million users over two days of work - not bad for a startup.
However, with great power comes great responsibility, and Fred will soon find out that it’s not all rosy and magical.
Obstacles Mingling Around
One day, Fred had to travel back to Paris, where he unexpectedly met with one of the platform members. As they discussed the experience of BlaBla Cars, the driver complained to Fred that not every passenger who books the car shows up. In fact, most of the drivers created some kind of a blacklist of those they knew did not show up. Drivers couldn’t validate the passengers because there were no pictures or additional information either.
Fred was surprised and puzzled about the many people dealing with this issue in silence. What bothered him was how it was possible that his start-up did not fulfill the standards required for a seamless experience. Left with no more time for ifs or buts, Fred gathered his team and explained what he had learned. The team agreed that coming up with a solution was a must, to rebuild the trust among their clients.
To mend the issue, they decided to verify information on riders and drivers, so all parties can feel safe and vouched for. To enhance their system further, the team also included photo uploading to their platform.
Knitting the Greatest Carpooling Web
The loyal backers of BlaBlaCar are Investment Bim App, Patatam, Happydemics, Gojob, Bnbsitter, Zenpark, Onfido, Yescapa, Shapr, and Star of Service. Three years into the company launch, Blabla Car began to spread, in Spain first, then elsewhere.
In 2011, it took the UK market, and in 2012, it became a household name across Europe, including the Balkans. Currently, there are 600 employees working for BlaBlaCar and over 70 million users of the services.
BlaBla Car Today
Blabla Car has an estimated worth of $1.6 billion, a financial testament to their originality and unique service. It all began with Fred. Then came the team. Then the idea was brought to life. Since Blabla Car’s reputation first took off, the company has been only pushing forward, leaving their competitors in the shade.
The company headquarters remain cemented in Paris. As of late, the company implemented its long-awaited vision - to make every employee an equity holder.
Created by the people, owned by the people, and intended for the people - Blabla Car keeps changing the rules of transportation to the world’s benefit!