Karolina is a Communications Manager at XSolve, looking after media relations as well as content marketing.
When BlaBlaCar approached XSolve, they were at a stage of rapid growth with around 24 million users already buzzing about their excellent carpooling platform. But the visionaries at BlaBlaCar understood that competition never sleeps. Other tech startups around the world were quickly entering the race for a piece of the carpooling pie. BlaBlaCar user traction was very impressive on their home turf in France. It was time to scale their business dominate other geographical regions.
Scale it till you make it
BlaBlaCar wanted to expand quickly in 27 markets around the world, ensuring their competitive advantage over other travel and carpooling app contenders. They had just over a year to succeed by establishing themselves as the leading and most trustworthy carpooling platform.
However, their web and mobile app needed customizing for each of the 27 countries, mostly due to differences in local legislation. Additionally, BlaBlaCar understood that the key to business success is customer satisfaction and decided to further improve their app with new and improved features, including maximizing payment security.
Racing against time
BlaBlaCar needed an agile, self-organizing development team to join their Tribe Satisfy team and start working on new features for the app. However, due to a limited talent pool in Paris they struggled with expanding their HQ team. They decided to build a second development center in Warsaw. However, they knew that it would take time to recruit, on-board and train a new Poland-based development team; especially a high-performing team with all the skills necessary to do a top job.
But time was the one resource BlaBlaCar didn’t have if they wanted to achieve their goal of market dominance, while recruiting the developers for their Warsaw office, they decided to outsource a temporary team to move the project along more quickly.
BlaBlaCar got in touch with XSolve in mid-October and only two weeks later the project kicked off.
Finding the right partner for the job
So what were the deciding factors when choosing the right outsourcing partner? BlaBlaCar were impressed with the quick reaction time from the business team at XSolve and their readiness and ability to assemble a team within two weeks.
Moreover they looked for a team which was already a high-performing unit. At XSolve the teams are built around core members who have worked together on previous projects. These team pillars pretty much guarantee that the team will work together well.
Equally important for BlaBlaCar were the skills of the developers. The company is famous for hiring only senior developers, thus their expectations and benchmarks are exceptionally high. Each member went through a rigorous interview process led by the client. This way BlaBlaCar was able to ensure the chosen team had all the necessary skills to successfully work on the customizations and improvements they envisioned.
Finally, BlaBlacar weren’t just looking for an outsourcing provider, they were searching for a development partner. They wanted to find a company with a similar DNA to theirs – a mature organization but with a startup culture built on trust, accountability, knowledge-sharing and teamwork. And they did. BlaBlaCar meticulously reviewed all the processes at Xsolve, also enquiring into work culture and values – what they saw fit their expectations perfectly.
The Dream Team goes to Paris
The XSolve development team selected for BlaBlaCar had worked together on past projects and knew each other well. The team, consistng of a designer, backend and frontend developers, QA, DevOps and a Scrum Master, went to Paris for a project kick off and two week onboarding as requested by BlaBlaCar. During this time, the XSolvers took part in a complete introductory programme alongside BlaBlaCar newbies with lectures about brand philosophy, business, technology, and processes. This gave the team members a good understanding not only of the complex product they were building but also the company structure, culture, and processes.
What’s more, the XSolve team had a chance to work alongside their Parisian colleagues, forming personal bonds and relationships, and getting to know their work style, which made for smoother collaboration throughout the project.
Baguettes and sausages are a perfect match
The XSolve team became an integral part of BlaBlaCar’s Tribe Satisfy, successfully working remotely with BlaBlaCar’s Paris office for more than a year and a half. Daily communication was via Slack, Basecamp, email, and Google Hangouts while the development tools included Jira and GitHub. Communication was exclusively in the English language and it is worth noting that both teams in Paris and Gliwice policed that rule stringently on Slack with appropriate emoticons every time somebody used French or Polish (a baguette for the use of French and a sausage for Polish). This simple and funny method worked wonders and soon the only language in use was English.
The XSolve team quickly reached the norming and high-performing stage with their BlaBlaCar counterparts due to their past experience, the onboarding and frequent visits. Every two months, the BlaBlaCar and XSolve teams worked face-to-face either in Paris or in XSolve’s HQ in Gliwice. This allowed the Parisian developers to understand the potential problems of remote working (e.g. how delays in code review or feedback can postpone development) and the Gliwice team members could comprehend the complexities of decision-making at the Parisian HQ .
Both teams also enjoyed spending time together after-hours during visits in Paris and Gliwice, creating even more close-knit relations. This has directly transferred to an openness in communication, especially in situations such as giving feedback or discussing problems during retrospectives.
Working with the Scrum framework helped to improve the XSolve team’s performance with each sprint, including daily meetings, reviews, retrospectives and planning held together with the Paris team. Outsourcing the dev team also gave BlaBlaCar a greater degree of flexibility regarding budget. They could downsize or enlarge the team depending on current needs, and the team size fluctuated between 4 and 9 members at various stages of the project.
Two companies, one team
XSolve really became part of the BlaBlaCar company for the period of collaboration. Our Scrum Masters even took part in BlaBlaCar’s internal bi-weekly meetings of agile coaches and Scrum Masters. They trusted XSolve so much that they handed over the training of their new junior Scrum Master to XSolve’s SM Barabara Strąk. Moreover, XSolve’s Head of Engineering Jarosław Kroczek was invited to meetings of BlaBlaCar’s higher management where strategic technological and process decisions were discussed. XSolve truly became BlaBlaCar’s remote development department.
The cherry on the cake was the cultural match between two organizations. Both companies strongly believe in agile development, both also value trust, knowledge-sharing and teamwork. With these core values in place the co-operation was bound to be a success and it was.
The proof is the pudding
By the end of the collaboration, BlaBlaCar had became the market leader in their selected regions, achieving their key business objective and increasing the membership from 24 to 35 million users.
While fulfilling their business goal with help from XSolve, BlaBlaCar also managed to recruit and onboard 20 developers for their new Warsaw hub and form teams who were able to take over the work longer term.
So why did it work?
Successful collaboration in software development outsourcing is not commonplace. The mismatch between expectations and results is usually high. So how come BlaBlaCar did it so well? There are several factors which contributed towards their success:
clearly defined business and technological goals: they knew what they wanted to achieve within a set timeline;
clearly defined expectations towards the outsourcing partner: big enough to scale but small enough to care about their product; also having a good cultural match and a skilled and self-organizing team, with core members who knew each other;
agile development: the teams working in Scrum responded quickly to the changing business and technological environment;
personal contact: onboarding in Paris, frequent visits to Paris and Gliwice, team bonding outside the office;
attitude towards the outsourcing partner: XSolve were not viewed as ‘code monkeys’ but as remote team mates, collaboration was built on trust;
transparency and communication: honest feedback and retrospectives, with ongoing communication in English via selected tools.
Checking these boxes allowed BlaBlaCar to concentrate solely on achieving their goals. Today their business is thriving. The carpooling giant is one of the biggest European startups with over 60 million users and is valued in excess of $1.5 billion.
If your company is experiencing rapid growth but your in-house development team cannot cope with the workload, there are still ways to achieve your business goals. Reach out to us and find out how XSolve can help.