Yeah I was blown away by this. I don't have any experience launching something and then having to kill it off.
"For the next two years, people continued to sign up for and use Ridejoy despite our complete lack of involvement in the site. Apple featured our app twice in the App Store, once in a travel collection, and later for Earth Day. Finally, in April 2015, Ridejoy disappeared completely after we forgot to renew the domain. "
A refreshing, balanced post-mortem. Keep trying guys, you'll hit upon something.
I used BlaBlaCar a couple of times to travel between Berlin and Hamburg. It was great, and I've wished there was an equivalent here in the US for traveling between NYC/Philly/Boston/etc. In both cases I traveled with people that were making the trip regardless, and I got the impression the money would just help cover gas, not really make a profit.
Not familiar with Europe, but I'm really curious why blablacar has been a success - Are there cultural reasons? Are there 'power seller' drivers perhaps in the form of work commute rideshares (which is something Waze is now doing)? Or something just different about it's business model or how it was started (e.g. mostly bootstrapped or happened to remain longer)?
Curious since every year or so I start wondering how to make a better ski daytrip carpooling network. Despite having various ideas / mockups, the best solution still seems (which is what I use in WA) to just use a meetup.com group with decent communication and pre-defined prices for a few well-known end-destinations.
Germany passed legislation covering Mitfahrgelegenheit ("opportunity to share a ride") early on. It limits the amount you can charge for a ride to covering costs and makes it illegal to make a profit. Even when Uber was attempting to operate in Germany it was forced to obey Mitfahrgelegenheit legislation, and for about a year in Düsseldorf & Cologne you could get across town in an Uber for less than a dollar. It could easily work out cheaper to take a car between the two cities than to take a regional train and around ⅛ of the cost of taking a taxi. Eventually Uber got tired of subsidizing rides and pulled out of the market. Incidentally, another mismatch for Uber in Germany was that many cities didn't artificially cap taxi numbers in the way that US cities do. Taxis were already plentiful and relatively affordable in Berlin, so apps like MyTaxi offered the hailing and pay-by-tap functionality of Uber to regular cab drivers who are mostly independent drivers who pass the commercial driving exam, buy commercial insurance, and register as cab drivers with the city.
I don't have any data to back it up, but I suspect that BlaBlaCar has been under pressure in Germany in the past few years. For a long time competition in intercity buses was restricted, and while cheaper than taking the train, was still quite expensive. BlaBlaCar was cheaper, and expanded into a lot of non-consumption of intercity travel at the time. Once low-cost bus service came in from companies like FlixBus it was often cheaper to take the bus than to rideshare, with more predictability and less co-ordination problems. Deutche Bahn as also provided more low-cost runs in response to this competition, though they seem to purposely make it hard to find these trains on the bahn.de website, while they are easy to get through aggregators that show cheaper modes of travel.
That said, there are a lot of operators on BlaBlaCar that operate counter to the law. Many people I know who use the service regularly have a story of going to meet with a driver who looked like a 25 year old blond German woman in the profile picture and discovering they were riding in an 8-seat van driven by a 40 year old immigrant.
 You can get an idea of different costs at the aggregator busradar, though they don't list every provider. https://www.busradar.com/search/?From=Berlin&To=Düsseldorf&W...
The economics "If you go from SF to LA and drive four passengers at $40 a seat" do not compete favorably with a bus ride ($10 on megabus, ~$1 if you find a coupon and book way in advance).
As a driver, I'd be totally up for splitting the gas money with someone, but as a passenger it just seems like a more expensive offering with no increase in benefits for me.
Are European buses or trains more expensive?
Author of the article here. It's a bit more complicated for both the driver and the seller.
Drivers have to coordinate pick up and drop off of passengers, which is a pain, especially in LA. On the other hand, passengers getting dropped off can also be a huge benefit since the bus stop probably isn't your final destination.
In general, Europe is denser (more cities within a closer distance), gas prices are higher, and people are maybe more trusting of strangers.
I'm in the UK. Our trains are expensive, much more than the rest of Europe, but we have Megabus and Greyhound which are pretty well priced. I've researched BlaBlaCar for getting home to my family and it's comparable to a Megabus. Roughly speaking, BBC/Megabus will be £10, Grerhound/National Express (nicer buses) will be £20, and trains will be £60 (or £40 for young people). I've never heard anyone mention BlaBlaCar here.
I've used BlaBlaCar in Germany. They have buses operating in a similar niche as Greyhound/Megabus (cheap but slow). Compared to those, the BlaBlaCar option was maybe slightly more expensive but faster and more comfortable.
I've been using it because it's the cheapest option you have, honestly.
I admit that it's also a great way to travel to an airport in a nearby city (which is how I use it), but I probably wouldn't use it if it was more expensive.
Now that seems to be a real ridesharing platform, unlike Uber or Lyft which are just cab services in disguise.
One of the business model that didn't work well in USA, but is a big success in Europe (valuation $1.6 bln):
Do you have to have a working prototype or connection to get funding for an idea.
Could someone call up some VCs and fly out to Cal and raise some funding over a couple of trips?
That was the standard offer from YC from it's early days up until 2014, when they switched to $120k for 7%. http://venturebeat.com/2014/04/22/future-y-combinators-new-d...
7% for 20k seems a bit steep. Even with YC placement being nearly priceless as it is.