Yesterday and this morning, TechCrunch, LesEchos and subsequently FrenchWeb (who somehow managed to get the ‘exclusive’?) announced that Blablacar, Comuto, and CoVoiturage raised $10 Million, with Accel Partners leading the round. The trick here is that all three of these companies are the same, branding themselves differently in each country (UK, Spain, and France). The P2P ride-sharing service, competitor to the American ZimRide, CoVivo, and 123enVoiture amongst others. had previously raised an initial round of funding of €1.25M from ISAI, the French fund led by Jean-David Chamboredon. The service allows commuting drivers to sell seats in their car to travelers for significantly less expensive than the cost of travel by train or plane.
Exits are exciting for Accel
The Folks over at Accel Partners were excited to announce their new investment; so much so that they may have accidentally let slip their hopes for what will ultimately become of CoVoiturage. Their announcement tweet, filled with exclamation points, ended with “Exiting!” – most likely a mistype of “Exciting,” but like Freud might say, sometimes a cigar is just a hope for a multi million dollar exit.
What’s good for ISAI is good for France
With ISAI & Accel’s investment in Shopmium last month, this marks the second time within a month that the two have partnered up to take a French startup international. I asked JDC to comment on whether this would become a trend in France, for startups to raise a first round in France and then search for international VCs in order to go international:
Not all French startups will succeed in getting funded by international investors but I hope and guess this will happen more and more often. The French web scene is vibrant and international VCs know that they can find very nice stories to back here in France… The earlier a startup company welcomes an international investor, the higher the probability is that it becomes successful outside of its home country….
Plans for the future for CoVoiturage
With $10 Million sitting in the bank, CoVoiturage hopes to expand across Europe – personally, I can’t wait to rideshare on the Autobahn! I’ve been a user of CoVoiturage for months now – it’s a natural transition for the Rude HitchHiker to become a Rude Ride-Sharer – and it’s certainly the best ride-share service I’ve ever seen. I can go on the site the day I want to leave, or one week in advance, and drivers will let you know how much they charge ( usually to pay tolls/gas on the freeways), whether they allow pets, music, suitcases, etc. in the car, and they’ll let you know where they’ll be leaving from and dropping off at. I’ve never spent more than 20 minutes setting one of these up, as most experienced drivers put up their cell phone number, and a simple text exchange secures everything you’ll need. On the site, unhappy and happy customers leave their comments on the drivers, and drivers gain ‘experience’ as they make more and more trips – there’s a certain level of trust you have for someone who has already taken more than 100 people and has little to no complaints in his reviews.
In addition to their expansion across Europe, I think there are a few things that CoVoiturage will have to work on in the next 18 months. As a habitual traveler, I’ve noticed that I’ve had the same driver a few times, and am decently convinced there is a circuit of people making a living off of CoVoiturage – this is not something I have a problem with, but I believe they may run into legal issues with this in the future – perhaps there will have to be a cap on how much drivers can make per month per year, etc.. The other, more important issue, is their site. While the product is fantastic, it is certainly succeeding despite its UX. As they figure out which aspects of the site are engaging to users and which are clutter, I’d like to see them clear up some of the space on their site and insert tools that they seem to be lacking currently. I haven’t yet used their mobile app Comuto, namely because I couldn’t find it when I searched for them under their alternative names.
It seems that 2012 is kicking off pretty well for French startups – CoVoiturage, Shopmium, i-Music School, and Weezevent among others have been taking in the millions to build out their startups. If you’re still looking for your next big thing, perhaps JDC’s words will help: “Social C2C (or P2P asset sharing) is going to be big!”