Banking & Finance Chauffeur firm gains UAE investor for premium Gulf service By Shane McGinley January 31, 2023 Blacklane Blacklane operates in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Dammam, Doha, Jeddah, Mecca, Muscat and Riyadh Blacklane markets itself as a luxury alternative to ride-hailing appsDeal with Gargash Group aims to super-charge growth in Middle East Chauffeur operator Blacklane has attracted investment from Dubai conglomerate Gargash Group, as it aims to offer Gulf passengers a more luxurious alternative to ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Careem. Founded in Berlin in 2011, Blacklane is active in around 50 countries. It launched in the Gulf in 2016 and currently operates in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Dammam, Doha, Jeddah, Mecca, Muscat and Riyadh. The financial details of the Gargash Group deal were not disclosed, but this is Blacklane’s 10th funding round and, according to data from the Crunchbase website, it has raised $103 million and has 13 investors, including Mercedes-Benz and Abu Dhabi-based Al Fahim Group, which was an early backer. Uber continues global expansion with launch in IsraelRussia’s Yango takes on Careem with Dubai launch Jens Wohltorf, CEO and founder of Blacklane, said the Gargash deal would help “to super-charge our growth in the Middle East”. “Dubai is an important gateway for international clients, a key leisure and commercial city, hungry for innovation, and committed to sustainability. “The ultimate goal is to continue driving our rapid growth. In the past three years, we successfully introduced innovative products, thereby winning an impressive amount of new business accounts, quadrupling revenues in 2022 year-on-year, and achieving EBIT [earnings before interest and taxes] profitability,” he said. With the likes of Uber and Careem already prominent in the UAE and wider Gulf market, Nicolas Soucaille, general manager for the UAE, said Blacklane was positioning itself at the high-end segment of the market. “Every chauffeur is interviewed and trained. We have a training platform so that if you take a ride in New York, Dubai or Tokyo then the experience is consistent. We see ourselves as like the Ritz-Carlton of the chauffeur industry,” Soucaille said. To achieve this level of service, Soucaille said Blacklane had partnered with Andi McCann, global driver trainer for Rolls-Royce, to develop its chauffeur training programme and set up a chauffeur academy in Dubai. Dubai conglomerate Gargash Group has invested in the chauffeur business. Picture: Blacklane The premium Blacklane service is, on average, around two-and-a-half times more expensive than standard Uber or Careem rides. Blacklane has acquired some rival transport brands in other markets, including Havn in the UK and Solve in the US, but Soucaille declined to comment on any potential acquisitions as part of the Middle East expansion. “The company will continue to develop new products and invest in its employees and leadership team,” he said.