This week’s announcements of Blablacar’s $200 Million Series D fundraising, as well as the continued developments around Uber’s sordid relationship with the French Government, are just the latest sharing economy news to come out of France. Airbnb,too, announced last month an agreement with the Paris Government that will see it extending the same ‘tourist tax’ to airbnb-ers that Hotels have to pay.
The fact of the matter is that it is no longer possible to be a global leader in the Sharing Economy without being a leader in France (and making headlines).
Whether it’s the tourism, the ‘socialist’ (I put it in quotes for Americans) culture, the lingering 10%+ unemployment or the desire to make a buck or two, France is to market where Sharing Economy companies are made or broken. At the end of last year, even Lyft was rumored to be ramping up for a launch in France, and then battles with Uber & regulators picked up in NYC & the rest of the US, and they called it off, according to our sources. Only time will tell what that means for Lyft, whose previous venture Zimride was the BlablaCar that never was.
It’s not just a question of whether the regulation is too strict in France – Uber’s first European city was Paris (it’s also where Uber CEO Travais Kalanick says he came up with the idea, waiting for a taxi at the LeWeb tech conference), and both Uber & Airbnb count Paris as one of their most active ( & profitable, we’ve heard) cities in the world. In addition, the Ouishare Fest (pronounced “We Share”) conference has quickly become one of the largest gatherings of sharing economy professionals, beautifully blending the sector’s professional & idealist communities to discuss how the sharing economy will impact industries around the world as well as corporation organization.
I joked last year when Blablacar raised $100 MIllion that Blablacar would ultimately acquire Lyft – the synergies & philosophies make sense, and the only thing stopping that acquisition would be the ego of Lyft’s investors, Anderseen Horowitz. I’ve heard they prefer to be the acquirer than the acquired – and Lyft is technically valued hire ($2.5 Billion to date, though they’ve also raised nearly $1 Billion). Perhaps a merger, though I don’t know if that’s how Blablacar CEO Frederic Mazzella sees things playing out.
Now with $200 Million in its pockets, Blablcar might just be ready to take its 20 Million members and nearly two dozen markets and aim all that expertise at the Moby Dick of markets – the United States.