Daimler invests $11 million in German chauffer service Blacklane in possible European challenge to Uber


Berlin-based Blacklane, a chauffeur company with a presence in 130 cities around the world, announced an $11 million Series C funding round led by Daimler on Monday. The financing brought back investors Alstin, b-to-v and RI Digital Ventures.

The app grew out of Germany and maintains its primary operations there. The company rebuffed requests for a full accounting of the new round, but it should be larger than $18 million, which is about how much Blacklane‘s two-phase Series B was worth according to Crunchbase. Some outlets reported the total round to be worth $20 million.

The move is an interesting one as it comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that Daimler’s MyTaxi would merge its operations with UK-based ridesharing startup Hailo, possibly positioning the pieces for a European challenge to Uber.

The company plays it safe in terms of operations, as it slowly expands from a purely chauffeur-based business to a so-called economy class. This adds to other acquisitions Daimler’s made like car-sharing company Car2Go and Hamburg-based cab app MyTaxi. It’s the connection to MyTaxi here that makes the timing of Daimler’s move all the more interesting.

“In the past, professional driver services were expensive, inconsistent and difficult to book. But Blacklane has made them affordable, accessible, and reliable worldwide,” CEO Jens Wohltorf said in a press release. A company spokesperson told Geektime that the coming months should reveal more lucrative partnerships and expansion plans, without revealing details.

Über vs. Uber? Daimler now has the ingredients for a German rideshare rival

“We want to offer flexible and innovative mobility services to our customers. Our investment in Blacklane as a global professional driver service is an important part of this strategy,” said Klaus Entenmann, Chairman of Daimler Financial Services (DFS) in a statement. “In recent years, we at DFS continuously developed our mobility services and platforms, in which we invested close to €500 million. We are prepared to make additional strategic investments in our mobility ecosystem.”

That could mean a big play by one of Europe’s big car manufacturers.

Daimler recently announced it was upping its already high €6.6 billion R&D budget to expand research on electric and autonomous vehicles, with CEO Dieter Zetsche telling reporters last month, “It is very important to get the right timing” on electric capability and autonomous vehicles. “As a tendency, and as a trend, we have become more bullish in that regard.”

More than any other country, Germany has given international rideshare juggernaut Uber a massive headache. The company has abandoned all but the German capital as regulators and customers rebuffed the company’s aggressive tactics and flouting of local laws. The Euro equivalent of UberX — Uber POP — remains open only in Berlin while UberVAN operates in Munich. But the company has seen some humiliating defeats in Dusseldorf, Hamburg and especially Frankfurt after a local judge ruled rideshare drivers needed the same licenses as cab drivers.

That leaves a big opening for anyone willing to play the game and work with local governments to ride within regulations. Besides all five of those cities, Blacklane is already on the ground in Bonn, Bremen, Cologne, Dortmund, Dresden, Essen, Hanover, Liepzig, Nuremberg and Stuttgart.

Daimler has all the ingredients to build such a company: a cab service with MyTaxi, a rideshare with Hailo (though its operations will now fall under the MyTaxi brand), a mapping service in HERE, a car share in Car2Go, and a chauffeur’s service in Blacklane.

Hailo had kept its operations tight, focusing on the UK (London, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool), Spain (Barcelona and Madrid), Singapore and Ireland. That is a dense amount of territory given the €91.5 million in venture capital the company has raised.

Blacklane was founded by CEO Jens Wohltorf and CTO Frank Steuer in 2011.


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