BlaBlaCar strengthens in Brazil with World Bank investment

We can continue to surprise even as an experienced French Tech employee. BlaBlacar, car sharing specialist, has just completed its eighth fundraiser since its founding in 2006. But the latter is atypical due to its modest sum of $15 million and its investor, the World Finance Corporation (IFC).

This institution is part of the World Bank, which is better known for its programs to combat hunger or disability than for its investments in start-ups. The World Finance Corporation (IFC) is engaged, in particular, in investing money in private projects in developing countries. In 2021, $31.5 billion was invested (loans, investments, etc.).

Atypical investor

Mobility, a sector that combines social and environmental issues, is one of its prerogatives. For example, IFC has acquired stakes in Bolt, an Estonian unicorn with a strong presence in Africa, Gojek, an important ride-booking platform in Southeast Asia, and Tembici, a fledgling self-service electric bike company based in Brazil.

The funding received from IFC is to help BlaBlacar accelerate its development in Brazil, the country where the tricolor company has been operating since 2015 and claims twelve million users. “In terms of usage, this is a country that is our seconde or 3e the most dynamic. And in twelve months, he will be the first,” predicts Nicolas Brusson, boss and co-founder of BlaBlaCar.

In addition to the car-sharing service, BlaBlaCar has developed a solution that helps bus drivers go digital by promoting online booking rather than at the front desk. In total, BlaBlaCar works with 122 bus companies.

In this country, the distances between major cities are great. “There was the development of air transport and private cars, but not trains,” recalls Makhtar Diop, director of IFC. Car and bus sharing is likely to attract a large part of the population in search of low-cost modes of transport. At this stage, BlaBlacar’s operations in Brazil are not profitable.

Strong international presence

Since its founding, BlaBlacar has pursued global ambitions. In total, the unicorn operates in 22 countries, including developing countries where few Next40 nuggets will try their luck (India, Mexico, Turkey, Brazil, etc.). “60% of our activities are carried out outside of Europe,” recalls Nicolas Brusson. “We have been looking for partners in these markets for several years,” the boss continues, recalling that his historical investors (Isai, Accel, Index, Insight Venture Partners, etc.) are more focused on Western countries.

Historically, BlaBlaCar has also performed well in Eastern Europe. In 2019, for example, the company acquired Busfor, a bus market specialist in Russia and Ukraine. After the outbreak of the war, the unicorn claims to have frozen its investments in the country led by Vladimir Putin. But the service continues to work there, as in Ukraine.

“The last two years have been for us theses of humility, because we are faced with external macroeconomic shocks,” emphasizes Nicolas Brusson. The pandemic has led to a sharp drop in travel. However, activity has rebounded in recent months amid the lifting of health restrictions and rising oil prices, further encouraging motorists to share their vehicle.

The company says it has seen higher booking levels since April than in 2019, but does not report its turnover. Sixteen years after its founding, it’s still not too late to surprise in terms of financial transparency.