A lesson for global executives from the fast growth of BlaBlaCar’s online community


BlaBlaCar is the world’s largest ridesharing service. It is an online community that connects drivers with empty seats to passengers who are making the same journey. It now operates in 23 countries across 3 continents.

But how do you convince people to get into a stranger’s car? This was BlaBlaCar core challenge when it started up in 2006. Their answer: focus on building a community. The founders realized that creating a community was the best way to reduce the (psychological) distance between drivers and passengers.

This smart thinking, put at the heart of all their implementation plans, evolved into six-step process to increase trust between members. The founders of BlaBlaCars believed, correctly, that the number of members would rise quickly if there was a trusting atmosphere in their community.

BlaBlaCar knew that more members and more profit would come as a result of being a trusted community. Contrast BlaBlaCar’s thinking with similar online communities like MySpace and Ebay. BlaBlaCar’s target was not to sign up as many members as possible (MySpace) or to make maximise the money from online transactions (Ebay).

So what can global executives learn? Their situation is similar to BlaBlaCar’s dilemma. The more distance there is between head office and global locations, the more that trust is likely to be negatively affected.

Put another way, how many executives prioritise a “trusting atmosphere” in their implementation plans across multiple regions? Not many. There is a high failure rate for global roll-outs and strategy alignment plans. Experts think 50%-70% of international implementation projects fail. Clients show me mountains of logical reasons for their Asian / American / European subsidiaries to accept Head Office’s latest plans. But I see molehills when the same executives talk about developing a trusting atmosphere.

That’s why I often use the BlaBlaCar story when working with global executives to build a trusting atmosphere. Trust between global and local management is not the magic pill, but it is one key element for those who are serious about speeding up implementation and global roll-outs.