By Leila Abboud
PARIS, Sept 16 (Reuters) - French ride-sharing start-up Blablacar has raised $200 million from three venture capital funds as it pursues its expansion in emerging markets.
Blablacar, which is already present across Europe and launched recently in Russia, India, Mexico and Turkey, was valued at 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion) in the fundraising round, said a person close to the matter.
Nicolas Busson, the co-founder and chief operating officer, told Reuters the company planned to launch in Brazil later this year and would aim to expand in Latin America and Asia next year.
Founded in 2006, the company puts people in touch so they can share the cost of long-distance car trips, but does not include taxi hailing or offer rides with professional drivers.
Drivers are not allowed to profit from using Blablacar, so the company has so far averted the controversy that has plagued its well-funded cousin Uber Technologies Inc.
Taxi drivers from all over Europe converged in Brussels for a strike on Wednesday to protest what they see as unfair competition from Uber, whose app allows people to hail rides in sedans staffed by professional and non-professional drivers.
“Today we have a community of 20 million people in 19 countries,” said Busson. “We are scaling Blablacar in emerging markets.”
Blablacar, whose name is a play on how much chatter drivers and passengers can put up with on long-haul journeys, has already raised three previous rounds of from big name venture capital funds including Accel Partners and Index Ventures.
Insight Venture Partners, Lead Edge Capital and Vostok New Ventures participated in the fund-raising round.
Busson said the company did not expect to go public for another few years, and would likely raise one more round of funding before then.
Blablacar’s strategy has been to acquire local competitors as a way to speed up its expansion, and expects to continue doing such deals, said Busson. It has bought eight companies in the past three years, including its largest European rival, Germany’s Carpooling.com for an undisclosed price in April.
“The aim is to build a standalone company that will be here a long time and become an iconic company in Europe.”
$1 = 0.8864 euros Additional reporting by Eric Auchard; Editing by Greg Mahlich and Catherine Evans