Les Talent Stories – BlaBlaCar

The Talent Stories series opens the doors to the top French Tech start ups. Each at their turn talks about their DNA, how they have survived the true test of the digital transformation of 2020, and how they are changing the world by making a positive social or environmental impact.

Next up in the series is BlaBlaCar, the carpooling startup with an international team behind its success and with big plans for expansion.

Text by Emilie Baliozian, brought to you by France Digitale Talent.

How tempting does the travel sector sound right now for someone looking for their next career opportunity? Well actually, when it comes to the carpooling service BlaBlaCar, it doesn’t sound like too bad of an option at all. The French startup raised a new funding round in April, is investing in diversity and inclusion, and is looking to expand next to trains. Instead of pushing the breaks, sounds like their plans are only accelerating!

BlaBlaCar is also a Tech4Values startup. In addition to their long term commitment to cutting CO2 emissions through increasing the number of persons per car ride, they also showed solidarity during the pandemic by building BlaBlaHelp, a free app to help people help each other. It’s time to let their CTO and other team members drive us through their 2020 and all the way to their plans for the upcoming years.

A few words about BlaBlaCar

BlaBlaCar is the world’s leading community-based travel network. We’re present in 22 countries (Western and Eastern Europe, with LATAM & India) and have over 90 million members who share the road together.

BlaBlaCar was created in 2006 with one dream in mind: to fill the millions of empty seats on the road. “Unacceptable waste!” thought Fred Mazzella, Founder & President, on his way to see his family for Christmas that year, seeing all these empty cars on the highway.

Ever since, we’ve been leveraging the power of technology and smart algorithms to match drivers and passengers and fill as many empty seats on the road as possible. #ZeroEmptySeats

Today, travelers can choose to travel by bus and carpool, long-and-short distances, all the while connecting with people and saving CO2. Every year, carpooling saves 1.6M tons of CO2 and enables 120M human connections.

What differentiates you from others? 

By filling up cars on the road, we’re a travel network that saves more carbon than it emits (625 times, to be precise)! Sustainability has always been a part of our DNA. The more our platform grows, the more emissions are avoided and the more human connections are made. Our growth and positive impact are intrinsically linked, which allows us to have full confidence in our ambition to scale.

What’s special from a talent perspective is the opportunity to make an impact and be a part of an international team that cares, is humble and likes a good challenge. We count 35 different nationalities across 7 offices worldwide!

“Working at BlaBlaCar is actually like taking a carpool. You hop in, go on an adventure and make enriching connections. And at the end of the day, you and everyone in the journey have made a positive impact, learned something new, and are ready for the next adventure.” — Gabriela Gabriel, Senior Software Engineer

What is your assessment of 2020?

2020 wasn’t easy for the travel industry, but it proved the resilience of our community-based model. It’s organic, asset-light and flexible, which means it can quickly rebound from a crisis and adjust to changing traveler needs and behaviors. While most transport networks were severely affected by the crisis, our platform maintained over 70% of its activity with 50 million passengers travelling in carpool or buses in 2020.

As soon as we caught wind of the crisis, we quickly put the teams on partial activity, with the exception of the Product & Engineering teams. As travel activity was down, it gave us the bandwidth to advance on our technical roadmap and keep innovating our algorithms and product.

“Fortunately, our Engineering team already had a strong remote & async-first culture before the outbreak, allowing us to transition smoothly to a full remote working environment. We never stopped our projects, and even made time to innovate outside our roadmap! We had our first-ever 100% remote hackathon dedicated to building BlaBlaHelp, an app that helped people purchase essential supplies during the Covid-19 crisis.” — Olivier Bonnet, CTO

What are your challenges for the future? 

We have a bright future ahead! We just raised $115M in funding to support an offensive growth strategy to keep filling empty seats on the road, further digitalize road travel in markets outside of Europe, expand our bus network in Europe, and start extending our multimodal offer to include trains.

A big focus for us internally is the roll out of our Diversity and Inclusion strategy, intended to make our workplace and hiring practices more inclusive, support women in tech, and increase diversity in leadership. It’s the start of a long, exciting journey!

“Our member community is incredibly diverse. It therefore makes sense for us, as a team, to reflect that diversity if we want to be in tune with the needs of our users. Beyond that, I’m a firm believer in the value of having different perspectives around the table and fostering an environment where everybody feels recognized and empowered to contribute to the organisation’s success.” — Nicolas Brusson, co-founder & CEO

To make all of this happen, we’re scaling the team massively, hoping to fill 250+ positions by the end of 2021. We’re looking for engineers, data specialists, product managers, designers, strategy analysts, talent acquisition managers, and more. If you want to build the future of mobility with us, find our open positions here!

How do you translate your values ​​into behavior? 

A few years ago, our team crowdsourced internal principles that would allow us to scale across countries and markets, while staying true to ourselves and mission. We call them our BlaBlaPrinciples. As we evolve, we’ll occasionally organize “Walk the Talk” workshops to test their relevance to current challenges and how our teams internalize them. 

Here are examples of some of those principles:

Be The Member. In order to offer a product relevant to our members’ needs, we make sure we’re active users of our service and members of our own community. So, employees are allowed free carpooling and buses in exchange for testing the product and giving feedback. We also have team-building days where teams pick a destination and go on the road together, as well as job-sharing opportunities, where we work with the community relations team and directly answer member requests.

Share More. Learn More. Sharing is a big part of how we operate and grow as a team. We have weekly BlaBlaTalks and Tech Demos to stay aligned on strategy and learn about other projects in the company outside of our own scope. We also make sure to have a strong culture of transparency, from the individual contributor all the way to top management. Our company-wide KPIs are tracked and shared regularly by the CEO, so we can all be kept aware of how the company is doing.

Fail. Learn. Succeed.  What’s innovation without a healthy dose of failure? We are often encouraged to share moments of failure, what we learned, and how we could have done things differently. “When you revolutionize the way people travel, you accept the risk of making mistakes along the way. To learn from them, and ultimately succeed, you need to de-stigmatise failure, and put the spotlight on the learnings [that] come from it” — Stéphanie Fraise, Global Talent Management

Learn about the rest of our principles here!

Your long-term vision? Where do you see the business in 10 years? 

Easy. The app is installed on every smartphone. Every time someone feels an itch to travel short or long distances, they go for the BlaBlaCar app. They see a variety of travel options offered, with the possibility to seamlessly transfer from one mode of transport to another, and travel door to door, even to the most remote of places. Driving alone will be a thing of the past, and sharing a ride will become a daily habit for everyone.

One last story to share?

In 2018, Remi, Artabaz and Ben from our product team took the Be The Member principle to a brilliant extreme. They decided to travel from Moscow to Paris only via BlaBlaCar. How’s that for testing the product?

3000km, 51 hours, and 7 rides later, they had arrived in Paris with fascinating stories, insights and feedback to share. Their next destination? Brazil!


Read more about working at BlaBlaCar and their benefits and tech stack here.

Do you want to join a French Tech startup or scale-up in France or elsewhere?

More information on the Talent Program and France Digitale.