Despite the pandemic, BlaBlaCar served 50 million passengers in carpools or buses in 2020, which shows remarkable resilience. The French startup has aggressive plans to create a rail service, debut a travel booking app for travelers, and expand its bus network much farther outside of Europe.
VNV Global led the round with this convertible note investment in the Paris-based startup. New participating investors included Otiva J/F AB FMZ Ventures. The startup has previously disclosed raising more than $443 million in venture capital since its founding in 2006.
Despite the pandemic, BlaBlaCar served 50 million passengers in carpools or buses in 2020, a reduction versus 70 million in 2019. Since the end of 2018, it claims to have grown its “members” by about 45 percent to 90 million.
BlaBlaCar said on Tuesday it had acquired the Ukrainian intercity bus operator Octobus. Part of the appeal of Octobus is that the company has an inventory management system that BlaBlaCar believes could be scaled up for its use worldwide.
BlaBlaCar operates in 22 markets, and travel outside of Europe now accounts for more than half of its activity. It’s seeing double-digit growth in bookings for carpool and bus compared to pre-crisis levels in markets outside of Europe, especially in Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, and (before a recent surge in coronavirus infections) Brazil.
Further acquisitions may be in store. BlaBlaCar said in a statement that it may use some of the funding “to seize attractive M&A [mergers and acquisitions] opportunities to lead the offline to online shift in ground transportation.”
The 700-employee company planned to double the size of its bus network worldwide during the coming year-and-a-half.
Two companies possibly threatened by BlaBlaCar’s moves are Omio, a startup building a multi-modal booking app (meaning an app listing all forms of travel including bus and rail), and FlixMobility, a startup offering intercity bus and rail travel in Europe. BlaBlaCar is reportedly interested in building a multimodal booking app and creating a private rail offering.
“The funding, which adds to an already strong balance sheet, will help us lead an offensive strategy,” said co-founder and CEO Nicolas Brusson.
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Photo credit: An intercity bus branded by BlaBlaCar, a French startup, which raised $115 million (€97 million) in fresh investment to build out its bus and carpooling network. BlaBlaCar