If you have an empty car, why travel alone when you can make money and potentially new friends?

You share a trip, you split the cost and you have a good time.

“Such a simple but powerful idea,”

says Philippe Cayrol, Growth Manager at BlaBlaCar, the French Unicorn, that connects drivers with empty seats to people travelling the same way.

Speaking this week at Entrepreneur Country forum 2016, Philippe admits that this is not a new idea and other companies in different countries have tried to do this many years ago.

So how the ride sharing company managed to pull things off and connect 25 million users in 2016 across 22 countries?

It wasn’t as simple as it sounds and they have tried and tested several business models like freemium, subscription, etc. for four years before the business took off in 2012. Why?

They finally got the right combination of criteria to match people on a car journey: Departure location, arrival location, date and time and social comfort. But for the business to take off, Philippe says, you need scale, a lot of supply and demand and a platform which is easy to use and is built around trust.

And to create trust at scale, the team has honed their DREAMS model, which means that users of the platform have to be:

  • Declared: It’s not anonymous. You have to say who you are, what you like (cats or dogs) and anything that shows that you are a real person
  • Rated: People rate each other and say how good a driver is, how punctual a user is, etc. so other users know what to expect with a particular individual
  • Engaged: You need to book a trip, pay and show up; that’s where BlaBlaCar takes a commission and its becomes a business
  • Activity: As a member of the platform, you exchange messages with the driver or the user, and give them enough information to reassure them that you will show up at the indicated time
  • Moderated: the conversation is monitored to avoid abuses
  • Social: People can see your profile on social media, which adds a layer of trust

They wanted to quantify how people trust others and commissioned a study which shows that on a scale of 1 to 5, the lower trust being 1, BlaBlaCar DREAMS environment was rated at 4.3, close to family and friends rated at 4.7 and well above colleagues (3.6), neighbours (3.1), Facebook contacts (2.5) and strangers (1).

The secret is to gather enough information to reassure people.

But to experience such an exponential growth, two factors were determining:

  1. People became more confident in using internet to do personal transactions
  2. The rise of mobile phone and specially the smartphone made it convenient to access the platform on the go

They have launched the right product at the right time to make the magic happen. Not too early and not too late to capitalise on both technology and the changing habits of consumers.

The company valued at $1.5 Billion in September 2015, is experiencing significant growth in emerging markets.

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About Francine Beleyi

Francine Beleyi is a digital strategist, entrepreneurial journalist, and change agent who helps businesses thrive in the digital age. She spends her days speaking with and studying the most successful entrepreneurs in the new economy, and sharing her findings with those who are open to new ideas and want to increase their results.

Are you looking for new strategies to boost the growth of your business in the digital age? Book a complimentary call with Francine today. You can follow her on Twitter @FrancineBeleyi.