Lyft was founded as part of Zimride in 2012. Image credit: Jenny Nilsson.
Lyft made headlines on September 3 for its bold use of corporate activism. It announced it would cover legal fees of drivers sued under the new Texas law SB8, which threatens to punish drivers (including those working for a rideshare service) for transporting people seeking an abortion considered illegal under the new restrictions.
“This law is incompatible with people’s basic rights to privacy, our community guidelines, the spirit of rideshare, and our values as a company. Riders and Drivers: Nothing about how you drive, ride or interact with each other should change." - an excerpt from Lyft’s blog post titled “Defending drivers and women’s access to healthcare.”
The ridesharing company is no stranger to corporate activism and taking a stand. Lyft was started as part of a mission-driven ridesharing service, dedicated to reducing carbon emissions and radically transforming the state of transportation in cities.
Currently based in San Francisco, Lyft operates in 644 cities across the U.S. and 12 cities in Canada. The Org reviewed the brief history of the ridesharing company, examined who is currently steering it into the future, and got to the bottom of where all those pink, fuzzy mustaches came from.
The idea for Zimride was born five years earlier. Green was looking for a cheaper and easier way to travel from Santa Barbara, California to Los Angeles to see his girlfriend, when he remembered a trip he took to Zimbabwe, where he saw locals use a crowdsourced carpool to get around. With Greyhound and Craigslist as the only other available options, Green got to work on Zimride.
Across the country in New York, John Zimmer was working as an analyst at Lehman Brothers when he saw a post on Facebook about Green’s idea (then called Zimride). As a self-proclaimed “carpool enthusiast” during his college years at Cornell University, Zimmer connected with Green through a mutual friend, and the pair got to work building the mission-driven, sustainable rideshare service straight away.
“Pretty quickly we realized, hey, we believe in our concept so much, and really think we've found something broken,” Zimmer said in an interview with Inc. magazine in 2016. “Logan had served on a transit board and knew public transportation in cities was broken. I came from a hospitality background and saw that 80% of seats in cars weren't occupied most of the time. We knew we could solve this.”
When Zimride was acquired by Enterprise in 2013, the founding duo stuck around to spin out Lyft – against the advice of their mentors. Lyft started operating short-haul rides in the San Francisco area and became instantly recognizable by the fuzzy pink mustaches taped to the front of all Lyft cars.
The iconic mustaches were the brainchild of Ethan Eyler, the founder of Carstache, who sold a number of them to Green and Zimmer. Eyler later joined the team as a brand manager in 2013 and currently serves as the Head of Brand Products.
Green still leads the company as CEO and has been a member of the company’s board since its founding. He’s also been on the board of eBay since 2016. Zimmer has been President of the company since 2013 and a member of the board since 2010. Before he was Lyft’s President, he served as COO from 2008 to 2013.
In 2018, Lyft acquired Motivate, the largest bike share operator in the U.S., and launched it’s very own electric scooter business. Currently leading the engineering effort on that front is David Foster, Head of Transit, Bikes and Scooters. Foster is an extremely experienced hardware engineer. He’s been involved in various hardware projects at the biggest tech companies in the world, including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google. He’s worked on the development of the Kindle, Chromecast, FireTV, and much more.
A year after its bikeshare acquisition (which includes Citibike in New York) and it's one billion ride milestone, Lyft filed to go public in 2019, aiming for a $23 billion valuation. It opened on the Nasdaq on March 29, 2019 at $72 a share, valuing the company at $20.6 billion.
CFO Brian Roberts, who steered the company through its public offering, has been running the company’s finances since 2014. Before his roles in finance and business development at Lyft, Roberts was SVP of Business Development and Strategy at Walmart Global eCommerce, a division of Walmart, Inc.
In the nine years of Lyft’s existence, the company has not been without its legal troubles. 2014 was a particularly rocky year for the company; it was when the New York Supreme Court held up Lyft’s launch in New York City, accusing the startup of violating taxi and limousine laws. Then there was “Project Hell,” rival company Uber’s secret operation to spy on Lyft drivers and persuade them to join Uber’s team instead, which was later investigated by the FBI. There was also a public battle over trade secrets, as the company accused former COO Travis VanderZaden of stealing company secrets after he joined Uber the same year.
It’s no surprise then that Kristen Sverchek, General Counsel for Lyft since 2012, was promoted to General Counsel and Secretary in 2015. She and her team have overseen the various legal battles and corporate law conundrums that have been thrown Lyft’s way. Before joining the ridesharing giant, Sverchek was an associate at Silicon Legal Strategy for three years.
Rounding out the leadership team is former Chief Strategy Officer Raj Kapoor. As the first VC investor of Zimride back in 2011, Kapoor has gone full circle at the company. He spent the past four years as Chief Strategy Officer, a uniquely forward-thinking role. His team worked on the cutting edge of rideshare technology, leading the autonomous car effort in Lyft’s network and working to add as many electric vehicles as possible to Lyft’s fleet to reduce carbon emissions.
He left the role in April 2021 to start his own VC firm and has transitioned to a part-time strategic advisor role. Before Lyft, Kapoor started Fitmob in 2013, which eventually merged with Classpass. There he ran international and new supply.
Green and Zimmer have been passionate advocates for a “third transportation revolution” for years now. As the company nears its tenth birthday, keeping an eye on how the leadership team grows and what emerging technology Lyft pursues will give insight into how our transit landscape might change in the coming years.