BlaBlaCar’s Green Hands

This article is written by Mohammad Eslim, a Contributor Author at Startup Istanbul.

Nicolas Brusson is 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.

Ozan Sonmez is the Founding Managing Director of Growth Circuit (GCA) in San Francisco. GCA is a fully owned subsidiary of the micro fund Growth Circuit VC, an m$ seed stage investor. GCA helps international startups that have global products to launch in Silicon Valley/San Francisco area through exclusive partnerships with institutions like UC Berkeley & Draper University. Ozan is an angel investor, experienced startup mentor and an accelerator manager. Ozan and Nicolas had a panel session at Startup Istanbul 2014 where they talked about Blablacar.

I’m pretty sure there has to be a saying about how much of an excellent work a good team can do. I’m saying that mainly because everything in the business relies on the team and that is probably why choosing a team is one of the basic steps to go into a startup.

While choosing members to make a good team is a tremendous start to your business, it’s quite known how different of a task it is to build a team that will share your motivation, goals, challenges, burdens and experience. Once the idea comes to you like a bright bulb lightening your mind you would find yourself sharing this idea with people you believe they share your thoughts and insights.

In an interview with the CEO of BlaBlaCar there was the important question about how he had chosen his team members, on what bases he selected them, how they got together, what interest they share and what keeps them strong together. Nicolas Brusson said that his experience was a lot different than normal stories about choosing the team members in accelerators programs and boot camps because they had actually formed the team over almost five-year period.

The story began in 2005, with sort of the idea and the first website which was classified and done by Fred (Frédéric Mazzella), they then studied the story with another guy initially, starting the project slowly before they took another job only to have the three now-co-founders (Frédéric Mazzella, Francis Nappez, Nicolas Brusson) meet up in early 2007 in an MBA class which indicates that no one was able to work full-time on the project.

That time was the first time they have thought of BlaBlaCar as a business and eventually create a company out of it. So technically, it took them almost full two years period working slowly on the project before it became a company. And even after starting the company it still took a lot of time to be what it is as Nicolas starting working in venture capital while Fred was completing his studies and Francis was working in another tech company.

In 2009, they had the first employee and the first office and the first angel round. Then after that it was the typical story of startup where they have grown the product, proved there should be use-case in the market and everything they should be doing in any startup. The surprise is that Nicolas actually joined the team in 2011 which is really a good time seeing as they were all the co-founders of the idea that built this company.

While this was a long journey to make a team and eventually start a company, it was based on a team who studied the idea and worked on it for years and went to improve themselves in every way they can until they became ready to start their own company. Their next obsession was how to turn it from French company into a European company, how to scale into a bigger market. From this point they started to get bigger, expanding their business and fund raising until it reached into a global scale.

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