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What Does French Ride-Sharing Company BlaBlaCar Have That Uber Doesn't?

(From left to right) BlaBlaCar co-founders Nicolas Brusson, COO, Frédéric Mazzella, CEO, and Francis Nappez, CTO.
(From left to right) BlaBlaCar co-founders Nicolas Brusson, COO, Frédéric Mazzella, CEO, and Francis Nappez, CTO.

Uber takes you from place to place within a city, as does its ride-sharing competitor Lyft. Taxis, of course, do the same. But what about ride-sharing for long-distance car trips? In European countries, there's an app for that. It's called BlaBlaCar — and it's on the move.

Today the 9-year-old French ride-sharing company that bills itself as "the world's leading long-distance ridesharing platform" announced that it has raised $200 million from three venture capital funds and is valued at $1.6 billion. Forbes says it "stands out as one of the most well-funded young tech companies in Europe."

Blablacar is often compared to Uber, but in reality, its business model is fundamentally different. It connects people who are traveling between cities, not within a city, and, most importantly, BlalaCar drivers don't make a profit. The idea behind BlaBlaCar stems from the fact that people are driving from city to city with open seats in their car. BlaBlaCar puts drivers and passengers in touch with each other and everyone shares the cost of the drive. This strategy also protects the company from having to deal with taxi regulations that have plagued Uber.

"We cap the maximum price on all journeys, so the driver doesn't exceed the cost of gas or wear-and-tear expenses of the vehicle. As a result, the driver does not make a profit on any journey," Nicolas Brusson, co-founder and COO of BlaBlaCar said in a statement.

The company, which operates in 19 countries including Spain, Russia, India, Mexico, Turkey, France, Germany and the UK, is planning to launch in Brazil this year and also plans to expand into Latin America and Asia.

What about plans to move business to the U.S.?

A company representative told NPR that there are "no immediate plans" to do so. Busson explained the reasoning behind this decision in an interview last year with CNN.

"There are so many countries today that we see where it's an obvious opportunity — like Russia was a few months ago, probably Turkey, probably Brazil — where essentially if you look at the cost of petrol and the disposable income in each country, there is such a mismatch that it's a no-brainer for a driver to actually share his ride when he is traveling around."

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