BlaBlaCar is an iconic name in the French startup ecosystem. The ride-sharing and bus ticketing company has been around so long that it’s hard to think of it as a startup anymore. Still, BlaBlaCar is a very interesting company today because of its unique trajectory.

What started as a scrappy online freeriding community became a startup that raised hundreds of millions of dollars and reached unicorn status. It then expanded to many countries on several continents before scaling back its ambitions and starting to think about profitability.

Today, the company announced the receipt of a €100 million revolving credit facility ($108 million at today’s exchange rates). This will provide it with new capital to plan for the future and continue to drive growth – including through acquisitions.

“Debt is a relatively attractive, non-dilutive and super flexible instrument,” Brunson told us.Several major banks in France, the UK and the US have secured €100m credit lines

BlaBlaCar currently doesn’t pay any interest because it hasn’t drawn on its debt facility. But Brunson said it plans to use the debt financing to acquire smaller companies. With many startups struggling due to their inability to raise their next round of funding, BlaBlaCar will be able to step in and acquire these smaller companies.

Profit over the past 24 months

While BlaBlaCar isn’t a public company, it’s slowly coming to terms with the fact that it can share some metrics more publicly. In this way, BlaBlaCar can reveal for the first time that it is profitable – in fact, it has been profitable since April 2022.

This milestone must come as a relief, as 2023 is going to be a challenging year for French startups – except, of course, if you work on artificial intelligence products.

“The entire business is profitable. We have been profitable for almost two years,” co-founder and CEO Nicolas Brusson told TechCrunch. “2022 is almost the first full year after COVID-19, except for the first two months. Our revenue was 195 million euros. Our performance for the year is basically down slightly, but this is actually because of the first quarter The situation is terrible.”

“But starting in the second quarter of 2022, we have been profitable. Then, in 2023, our revenue jumped to over 250 million euros. So our revenue growth was a little less than 30%, but we were still profitable.”

Profitability can mean different things to different people. Many companies like to claim they are profitable even though they talk about EBITDA – a financial metric that does not take into account the costs associated with the company’s assets. Brunson is a little tired of companies pretending to be profitable but actually losing money every year.

In the case of BlaBlaCar, the company has been consistently profitable on an EBITDA basis, but it also generates a net profit if all factors are considered – and BlaBlaCar does not own any cars or buses anyway.

In 2023, 80 million passengers booked a bus or shared ride on BlaBlaCar. The good news is that BlaBlaCar users are found all over the world, not just in France.

“Brazil is bigger than France in terms of number of users. I think India will have more ride-sharing than France next year,” Brunson said.

The company hasn’t started monetizing users in India, Brazil, Mexico or Turkey yet – it doesn’t take any fees from ride-sharing transactions. It will gradually increase booking fees, which will also help increase the company’s revenue.

One piece of the puzzle is Russia. When the war in Ukraine broke out, BlaBlaCar had millions of users in Russia. While many technology companies decide to sell their Russian subsidiaries, BlaBlaCar’s Russian operations have been completely isolated from the rest of the business, but BlaBlaCar has no plans to sell. Brunson believes this would be counterproductive because it would essentially mean giving it to a Russian owner.

“Today it accounts for less than 5% of revenue, so it’s quite small. It’s still part of the group but is completely segregated and managed independently… The company is completely separate from the group. But if you want to sell it, at the moment In this case, it would be equivalent to giving it away.”

Add train ticket

In Europe, BlaBlaCar wants to aggregate all modes of ground transportation. In addition to carpooling and bus rides, the company also plans to add rail fares. Users will be able to purchase tickets sometime in the next year or so.

“The idea is to combine that with ride-sharing. So we’ll be able to offer train plus ride-share travel — pretty much door-to-door,” Brunson said.

Even if you don’t book your next train on BlaBlaCar, the company is trying out last-mile ride sharing. “In this case we have a different model for slightly shorter distances. The idea is to connect the train station with your destination. Normally if you arrive at Vannes station you usually need to go to grandma’s house , holiday home or weekend getaway. You still have 10 to 40 kilometers to go,” he points out.

Since there are already many BlaBlaCar users traveling in that direction, the company will ping those drivers to see if they can pick up a group of people at the train station and take them to their destination.

In non-European markets, bus travel represents the greatest opportunity. “The good news for those of us in the market is that busing is still a very offline and fragmented industry,” Brunson said. He pointed out that people in India and Brazil spend billions on bus tickets, which again shows that BlaBlaCar still has room to grow.

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