This article is written by Mohammad Eslim, a Contributor Author at Startup Istanbul.
Nicolas Brussonis the Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of BlaBlaCar. Prior to becoming Chief Executive Officer in October 2016, Nicolas oversaw BlaBlaCar’s global operations and international growth. As Chief Operating Officer, he led the company’s corporate development, overseeing eight acquisitions, expansion to twenty markets, and three successive rounds of fundraising.
I’m sure finding the right mix of members isn’t easy to make a team that shares your visions, believes, motivation and experience isn’t a piece of cake. It is hard and you might find yourself hiring and firing people frequently. However, it’s not the hardest challenge you might face doing startups.
After BlaBlaCar team built the company with a steady marketplace in their country’s market, they made up their minds and decided to go for the European market. Expansion was their plan but what made it special was that they decided to expand early. So in 2009 was their very first employee in France, 2010 they expanded to Spain, 2011 they were in the UK and 2012 was when they acquired two companies and expanded all over Eastern Europe and Germany and many countries after.
BlaBlaCar didn’t plan this with no preparations so they wanted to fund money before they go expanding as to never run out of cash and that’s a key thing we should be aware of before going out of the local or regional market into bigger ones. Moreover, they had an interesting strategy that Google and Cisco done before which is acqui-hiring (talent acquisition), it is the process of acquiring a company to recruit its employees, without necessarily showing an interest in its current products and services—or their continued operation.
That was a model they followed because the company didn’t think they could invent everything and get the best people, sometimes the best team and the best innovation is just out there and the company can acquire them and convince them to join the adventure. BlaBlaCar believed in this strategy and they have basically done that four times in three years with a confirmation that they would continue to do so.
Growth in any country is unpredictable and having experience countries might indicate what will happen in the next one but you can still miss something and renew or change in the dynamics in the company. In BlaBlaCar’s case, their idea was new as no one has ever done ride sharing among cities and it was impossible for the company to predict how fast it’s going to grow or if it will grow at all. That’s mainly the reason they don’t try model that because they basically brought new behavior to the market and there is so much analysis you can do at the end of the day.
So the company puts it in a way when deciding to go into another market or another country, they imagine doing a startup within a startup with no limiting the budgets to only this and that. The mindset is to try and launch and work it as a startup with the company working on securing enough to scale the team in the new market if they can.
And now as a result of adapting to this mindset, the company has scaled in Russia unpredictably fast they are investing so much in Russia as the growth is at the speed of light. But in case it didn’t scale this fast they don’t step down, instead they invest a bit less, get feedback from the users, adapt the marketing message then they go try again.