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France's singular unicorn BlaBlaCar's secret to scaling fast globally

BlaBlaCar pulled in $200 million and spread its ride-sharing platform to 20 countries this year. It now claims 25 million members worldwide. Co-founder and COO Nicolas Brusson told the TechCrunch Disrupt London audience in an onstage interview today at least 50 percent of that growth is from emerging markets like as Russia and India.

All that growth probably seems sweet to Brusson and his team. He told the Disrupt audience that there were a lot of naysayers when he first started. "People told us forget it, it's never going to work," he said. The transportation platform blew up in France a few years ago and seems to have been on a roll up and to the right since.

"At the end of the day, wherever you have cars and people wanting to travel between cities it just makes sense," Brusson said. "You are creating a super-low cost travel network."

Many have compared the service to Uber (especially in the U.S.), but it's closer to Zimride, a U.S.-based ride sharing service for long distance. Lyft co-founder spun his ride sharing platform out of Zimride, then sold Zimride to rental car service Enterprise in 2013.

Zimride claimed 350,000 users at the time – a paltry number compared to the millions BlaBlaCar says are now part of its global network.

One of the interesting things Brusson mentioned onstage was that Russia, which BlaBlaCar launched into a bit more than a year ago, was the company's fastest growing market, followed by India. Those markets tend to be heavily male-dominated. Brusson said India is 80-90 percent men on the network, but more equal in places like France and Germany.

Brusson brushed off plans for an IPO, telling TechCrunch writer Romain Dillet he would consider it if it made sense and that he sees raising more money and IPO's as helping to accomplish the same end goal of bringing in more money to continue fast growth.

The plan going forward is to continue the roller-coaster trajectory on a global scale and forge ahead to many more areas of the world. Acquisitions help — BlaBlaCar has made eight so far. So will pulling in more cash. The startup is now worth $1.6 billion on paper with a total of $336.52 million in the bank.

"It's really based on how we can raise money sensibly," Brusson said.

This article by Sarah Buhr originally ran on TechCrunch, a leading technology media property, dedicated to obsessively profiling startups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news.

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