BlaBlaCar’s activity in Russia has reached a “phenomenal level,” said its cofounder and CEO Nicolas Brusson, in a recent interview with French business daily Les Echos.
The French startup entered the Russian and Ukrainian markets in 2014 through the acquisition of Ukrainian site Podorozhniki. “Our concept is popular there; there was a demand but little competition,” Brusson said. He said he expects Russia to become his company’s number one market, including its native France, in 2017.
Brusson confirmed a recent €21.3 million euro capital injection from Baring Vostok, a leading Russian private equity firm. “We were looking for a trustworthy local partner to help us better know the market. This investor is independent from the authorities and the oligarchs, and has supported the development of Yandex and Avito,” the French businessman emphasized.
“This round of financing was different from the previous ones, in that the financial dimension was not very important,” Brusson added, somewhat elliptically.
No new markets for BlaBlaCar
Recently, BlaBlaCar also launched its service in Brazil, India, Mexico, and Turkey. “It’s too early to draw conclusions, but our start has been very strong in Brazil,” said Brusson.
Meanwhile, BlaBlaCar has not taken off in Great Britain, for reasons which the company has not fully understood yet.
Taking into account the existing activities across Europe and emerging markets, Brusson believes that Blablacar has almost exhausted its growth potential in geographic terms. “We’re not sure there’s really a market for car sharing in the United States, and penetrating the Chinese market is almost impossible. So there are few new market opportunities for us, except perhaps Japan,” he said.
Rather than geographic expansion, the French unicorn will rather focus on increasing service use in the countries where it already operates — by improving user experience, introducing new functionalities, and potentially launching new low-cost services.
This post first appeared on East-West Digital News, an international resource about innovation in Eastern Europe.