Gianpiero Cognoli Field reporter

How I shared my way from Aix to Zagreb: episode 3

Seven Countries in Seven Days: From Ljubljana to Zagreb After partnering with ride-sharing service BlaBlaCar, AXA challenges a journalist to cross 7 countries in 7 days via sharing economy services to see how trust and insurance affect the sharing economy. This is the final leg of his journey. Future of insurance
Feb 3, 2016


This is it. My final BlaBlaCar ride. Ljubljana to Zagreb, with Davor and his girlfriend. I couldn’t believe it, I’d travelled 1902 kilometers in 7 days across 7 countries, almost exclusively via trust economy platforms (I got to Slovenia by train for those attempting to keep track).

As we neared the Croatian border and tensions mounted - the border was often closed because of the European migrant crisis - the discussion turned to issues of trust and safety when traveling, and insurance.

I reflected on how most of the time throughout this trip, whenever the subject of insurance was introduced, most people became quite passionate, on either side of the equation. People discussed difficulties with claims, how they found out they were covered for something when they thought they weren’t (saving them lots of money in the process), or how complicated coverage seems to be sometimes.

One thing seemed to hold true across the board. The longer someone was with a specific insurance company for coverage on their home, car, etc., the happier they seemed to be. It was almost a question of loyalty and trust being built solely with time, like a friendship.

Aha Moment #7: Trust can only be measured in months and years.

The trust economy is a perfect example, as the “accuracy” of a profile increases with time, revealing the “true” level of trust only after a while. Someone on a platform since 2011 with eighty-two 5-star reviews is implicitly more trustworthy than someone with three 5-star reviews who joined in June, though they both have the same exact score.

Insurance can accelerate and enable this trust, allowing people to take risks and try new services, new service providers and, indeed, new types of economic exchange. However, first-mover advantage is more important than ever before in this incredibly fast-paced “third industrial revolution” (as American economist and trend guru Jeremy Rifkin calls the sharing economy), and insurers and sharing platforms need to collaborate closely.

As they expand their partnership (currently available in France, UK and Spain), AXA and BlaBlaCar are on the right path. The trust economy is much much bigger than travel, and we’re only at the beginning of the opportunity curve, for both users and providers. The possibilities for insurance are endless and, indeed, necessary, for the trust economy itself to grow.


Upon leaving Zagreb on my last day, Bruno, my Airbnb host, was kind enough to find me a ride to the airport with a friend of his who regularly ferries travelers around the city. This was a classic offline transaction that stemmed exclusively from word-of-mouth. Since I had had a great stay with Bruno and trusted him, I immediately trusted his friend.

Aha Moment #8 (last one, I swear): Trust is built by association.

If there is an implicit trust via referral in the offline world (i.e. I trust you because I trust the person who referred you), online referrals could also be used to build and gauge trust, further extending the concept of “aggregated trust”.

And, going even further, this could be tied to insurance via a sort of combined “referral trust” (based on aggregated referrals, not evaluations, from users) that can help set premium levels and coverage, effectively turning subjective “word-of-mouth” into an objective measure.

I’ll let the actuaries figure that one out.


And on the seventh day… I managed an eighth country.

It appeared out of nowhere, as flight JU0231 from Zagreb broke through the clouds over Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport.

I was to have a brief stopover before returning home, but instead of thinking of the delicious grilled čevapi I was going to have for lunch in Skadarlija (a traditional-come-hip Belgrade neighborhood), I was reflecting on how the trust economy model, though still in its infancy, will take over many areas of the economy.

Following decades of expansionism that has turned into a clear threat to our resources, climate and economical well-being, we’re now turning to each other to optimize time and resources, meeting strangers and breaking down barriers in the process. The more this happens, the higher the need for aggregation of different sharing platforms, concepts and brands.

We’re already seeing this with companies such as Peers and Ouishare, both dedicated to bringing trust economy organizations, providers and users together in new ways, under one umbrella. Then there’s Trustman, and the much-discussed soon-to-be-launched “online reputation” service, Peeple. And, as I write, two sharing services with little in common, VizEat and Airbnb, just announced a partnership to bring sharers from around the world closer together at this year’s Airbnb Open event.

Insurance isn’t immune to this change, and indeed should lead the way. It can underwrite huge changes in the way we travel, eat and live, distributing the inevitable risks and “teething pains” of this new type of economic exchange, making sharing easier in the process.

Like the free coverage from AXA on my BlaBlaCar ride to Marseille. The first insurance of its kind, between a large global player like AXA and a sharing disruptor like BlaBlaCar, it brings together two companies at the top of their respective games, to offer a bright look into the future of the trust economy.

AXA and BlaBlaCar are leading the way with innovative coverage for their users, and show us how a large corporation with over 160,000 employees can work fruitfully with a quasi-startup of around 300.

In fact, when interviewed, both Grégoire (from BlaBlaCar) and Agnés Moreau, Digital Partnerships & Business Development Manager at AXA Group, said more or less the same thing, that “there’s much we learn from each other every day” and that, despite the size difference of the two companies, they managed to “collaborate very well together, surprisingly easily”.

Kind of what happens when people share anything, whether it’s an experience, a ride or a meal.

I’m reminded of how Sean Penn’s award-winning film “Into The Wild” ends, with the last words of extreme solo-traveler Chris McCandless:

“Happiness is only real when shared”.