BlaBlaCar is building a global transportation network out of empty car seats

This is an innovative form of disruption.

BlaBlaCar was born in 2006, when Stanford student Frederic Mazzella wanted to go from Paris to visit his family in the French countryside and couldn’t find a train—nor an easy way to share a car on Craigslist. (The name comes from rating yourself on your level of in-car chattiness from “Bla” to “BlaBlaBla.”)

Every month, one million people use the service, now operating in 12 countries, to share a car. “What we’re doing is building a massive transport network out of all of these empty seats in cars,” Nicolas Brusson, the COO of BlaBlaCar told Quartz. “There are more seats available between Berlin and Munich in cars, for example, than there are train seats or bus seats.”

Unlike Uber and Lyft, which use disruption sitting on top of a for-profit model, BlaBlaCar doesn’t require a specific revenue model for success. Like Airbnb, they make their money on fees.

BlaBlaCar’s fee model is structured to avoid a plague of the sharing economy—fights with established industries that don’t like being disrupted. Uber is the subject of protests from taxi unions all across Europe and has been banned in Seoul; Lyft struggles to get approved in New York; and Airbnb’s lawyers are fighting for their users who have been prosecuted for illegally running hotels. “We don’t want a driver to make a profit because then you end up in regulatory issues,” Brusson says. “If you don’t make a profit, you don’t have to worry about a special license.”

  • How does the company make money? From what I got from their website, transactions are cash only, directly from passenger to driver.