BlaBlaCar Founder and President Fred Mazzella speaks about trust at TEDx in Paris.

TRUST IS THE GLUE that holds the world together. It’s what enables 
40 million members of BlaBlaCar’s community to share countless car journeys, every minute of the day, without ever having met before. In creating the world’s largest people-powered travel network, BlaBlaCar had to address people’s natural apprehension of trusting someone whom they’ve never met before. That’s why so much importance lies in BlaBlaCar’s core value “In Trust We Trust.”

The rise of digital trust

Previously, trust between two people could only be built through repeated one-to-one interactions over a period of time before a certain bond was formed. In fact, for centuries trust was limited to close circles of family and friends. But today those feelings of trust, which once could only be felt in real life, are starting to be transmitted online.

Thanks to technology and new digital trust tools, platforms such as BlaBlaCar are empowering individuals to create trusted online profiles from verified information, declarative content and ratings from experiences. Taken together, this information allows peers who have never met before to make an informed decision, trust each other instantly, and start collaborating. When all this information is aggregated and made visible to others, it becomes part of an individual’s “trust capital” and peers can instantly download it. For instance, if you’ve never met Jane before, but learn about her through her profile and read through all her positive ratings, you may start to consider her to be less of a complete stranger and more as a peer or even a future friend.

Trust is the cornerstone of BlaBlaCar.

Evolution of BlaBlaCar’s trust layer

Building trust within any community is not easy, let alone online. For BlaBlaCar, it’s always been a continuous process of listening to members’ feedback and constantly iterating new features. When the platform was first launched, offered rides were similar to classified ads. It quickly became apparent that members wanted to see the name and a photo of the person they would be travelling with. Without knowing it, BlaBlaCar was beginning to build trust between people who had never met.

Year after year, the team continued to listen to its community and to the needs of the members, leading to the implementation of more and more trust features. Members’ photos, ratings, background verifications, social network connections, activity information, as well as the online booking system are just a few of the many features that were added to better the user experience and create a trusted ecosystem.

After each BlaBlaCar journey, the driver and passengers are encouraged to leave reviews for each other which is reciprocal in building an online reputation. More recently, BlaBlaCar rolled out the two-way ratings feature to ensure that fair and honest ratings are given, instead of possible “revenge ratings”. In this way, members are only able to view the rating they have received if they rate back their co-travellers within 14 days.

By building more trust features BlaBlaCar started to become more attractive for more and more people. Visitors to the platform were suddenly converting into members. The founders even began receiving calls from old friends — who had previously claimed they would never share a car journey with a stranger — saying they just tried travelling with BlaBlaCar and had a great experience. Back then, this was the proof needed that adding more trust was the key to growing the service massively and making long-distance carpooling mainstream. Today, trust is the cornerstone of BlaBlaCar.

The birth of Trustman

In 2012, Founder Fred Mazzella was invited to speak at a TEDx in Paris. There was only one hot topic on his mind that he wanted to share with the world: the changing scale of trust. As an avid believer in using visual experiences as vectors of learning and memorisation, Fred knew he needed a powerful vehicle to diffuse the concept of online trust and crystallise it in his audience’s mind. After much brainstorming, the superhero of trust was born. Aptly named Trustman, it was soon to become the symbol of trust not only for BlaBlaCar, but across similar peer-to-peer platforms. By filling in one’s online profile and leaving ratings after any type of collaboration, members would contribute to an ever evolving trusted ecosystem. Today, these everyday heroes are unleashing the power of trust. We are all Trustmen and Trustwomen.

Fred reveals Trustman at TEDx in Paris.

In the days leading up to the TEDx, as Fred rehearsed in front of his friends and family, it was suggested that Fred should actually become Trustman on stage and embody the superhero and superpowers. Together with his teammates, Fred decided to risk it. As he tore his shirt off on stage to reveal a bright orange T-shirt with the Trustman’s “T” symbol emblazoned on it, his fellow BlaBlaCar teammates who were scattered in the audience promptly stood up to reveal they were Trustman too, creating a “movement” in the amphitheater of La Sorbonne. Both comical and memorable, Fred knew it had all been worth it and will always remember it as the moment where the idea of a better trusted world was shared.