A history of Lyft, from fuzzy pink mustaches to global ride share giant

First it was Zimride – 2007

First it was Zimride

2007
First it was Zimride
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Logan Green starts a company called “Zimride” to offer long-distance ride-sharing between college campuses. Green got the idea when he was traveling in Zimbabwe and saw locals using crowdsourced carpool networks to get around. Green was using Greyhound and Craigslist to hitch rides between Santa Barbara, California, and Los Angeles to see his girlfriend, and decided to use the ride-sharing model to fill up seats. John Zimmer, an analyst at Lehman Brothers and carpooling enthusiast who arranged shared trips between Cornell University in upstate New York and New York City during his college years, sees a post on Facebook about Zimride and connects with Green through a mutual friend.

2012

Pink, Fuzzy Mustaches – May 22

Pink, Fuzzy Mustaches

May 22
Pink, Fuzzy Mustaches
Jeff Chiu/AP

Lyft launches in San Francisco, but not as a standalone company. It’s considered a service of Zimride and offers short-haul ride-sharing trips. The company becomes instantly recognizable because Lyft drivers affix large, fuzzy pink mustaches to the front of their vehicles. The mustaches are the brainchild of Ethan Eyler, the founder of Carstache, who sold a number of the decorations to Zimmer and Green. Eyler later joined Lyft as a brand manager.

2013

Investments start flowing – January 30

Investments start flowing

January 30
Investments start flowing
Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Zimride/Lyft raises $15 million in funding during a Series B round that was led by the Founders Fund. The company expands service to Los Angeles.

Lyft becomes the focus – May

Lyft becomes the focus

May
Lyft becomes the focus
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Zimride is renamed Lyft. The company shifts its focus to short-haul ride sharing, instead of longer rides for college students. It raises $60 million in its Series C venture financing round led by Andreessen Horowitz.

Zimride sells to Enterprise – June 12

Zimride sells to Enterprise

June 12
Zimride sells to Enterprise
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Lyft sells its Zimride private carpool business to the parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The terms of the deal are not disclosed, but the move allows Zimmer and Green to focus solely on the growth of Lyft.

Lyft picks up Silicon Valley – October 4

Lyft picks up Silicon Valley

October 4
Lyft picks up Silicon Valley
Jim Wilson/The New York Times/Redux

Lyft continues its expansion plans. After setting up shop in Dallas, Indianapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, the service expands into Silicon Valley.

2014

Expansion plans take shape – April 24

Expansion plans take shape

April 24
Expansion plans take shape
Jason Redmond/Reuters

Lyft announces plans to add 24 locations, and expand to a total of 60 cities, including New York City.  Lyft announces it will temporarily stop taking commissions from drivers, and tries cutting customer fares by 20%. Meanwhile, the company completes another round of funding, and takes in $250 million from Coatue, Alibaba, and Andreessen Horowitz, bringing its total amount raised to $332.5 million.

Legal troubles in New York – July 11

Legal troubles in New York

July 11
Legal troubles in New York
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The New York Supreme Court in Manhattan forces Lyft to delay its planned launch in Brooklyn and Queens in response to complaints filed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. He claimed the company’s plans to operate were illegal and violated taxi and limousine laws.

Project ‘Hell’ aims at Lyft – August

Project ‘Hell’ aims at Lyft

August
Project ‘Hell’ aims at Lyft
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Uber starts project “Hell,” a spying program that targets Lyft with fake accounts. The FBI would later investigate Uber for its practice of sending so-called brand ambassadors to order Lyft rides undercover and then persuade the drivers to defect to Uber. Meanwhile, Lyft says it will reinstate a 20% driver commission on rides.

Trade secrets – November 5

Trade secrets

November 5
Trade secrets
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Lyft accuses former Chief Operating Officer Travis VanderZanden of stealing company secrets. VanderZanden left Lyft for Uber in August. The complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court says VanderZanden stored Lyft documents on his personal Dropbox account, including confidential strategic product plans, financial information, forecasts and growth data.

2015

More funds arrive – March 12

More funds arrive

March 12
More funds arrive
Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

Lyft raises another $530 million, this time from Japanese online retailer Rakuten Inc. The investment values the company at $2.5 billion. Meanwhile, Lyft announces Lyft Carpool, which lets it go back to its Zimride roots by allowing passengers to carpool outside of city limits.

Lyft gets a new COO from Amazon – April 9

Lyft gets a new COO from Amazon

April 9
Lyft gets a new COO from Amazon
Business Wire

Rex Tibbens, the former vice president of Amazon logistics, joins Lyft as its chief operating officer.

Carl Icahn takes a stake – May 15

Carl Icahn takes a stake

May 15
Carl Icahn takes a stake
Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The company raises another $150 million in funding. This round included a $100 million investment from Carl Icahn, a legendary activist investor. The stake is notable because Icahn hasn’t previously invested in startup businesses.

Lyft partners with Starbucks – July 22

Lyft partners with Starbucks

July 22
Lyft partners with Starbucks
Craig Warga/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Lyft partners with Starbucks on the coffee company’s rewards program. Lyft drivers have the option of becoming Gold members in the Starbucks Rewards loyalty program. Lyft passengers earn points in the rewards program with each ride.

Lyft gets an ally in Asia – September 16

Lyft gets an ally in Asia

September 16
Lyft gets an ally in Asia
Zhang Peng/LightRocket/Getty Images

The preeminent Chinese ride sharing company, Didi Chuxing, invests $100 million in Lyft. The companies announce a strategic partnership that allows Lyft app users to hail a Didi car in China, and vice versa. The companies joined forces to create global hedge against the growth of Uber.

Lyft’s anti-Uber alliance grows – December 3

Lyft’s anti-Uber alliance grows

December 3
Lyft’s anti-Uber alliance grows
Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg/Getty Images

After partnering with Didi in September, Lyft announces its alliance will include Ola Cabs (India), and GrabTaxi (South-East Asia). All of the companies are market leaders in their respective region, and are backed by Softbank, a Japanese conglomerate founded by Masayoshi Son. More companies joined the alliance as a hedge against Uber, which has grown quickly.

2016

GM spends big money to partner – January 5

GM spends big money to partner

January 5
GM spends big money to partner
Bryan Mitchell/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Lyft announces a partnership with General Motors to innovate in ride sharing and autonomous cars. GM invests $500 million in Lyft, among the largest investments GM has made in an outside company.

Car rental program takes shape – March 14

Car rental program takes shape

March 14
Car rental program takes shape
Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Continuing to grow its partnership with General Motors, Lyft launches a rental program for GM vehicles called Express Drive. Lyft drivers can rent a car and use it to drive for Lyft. The two companies also announce a partnership to test-drive electric taxis.

Walmart tests deliveries – June 3

Walmart tests deliveries

June 3
Walmart tests deliveries
Sarah Halzack/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Walmart begins testing grocery delivery with both Uber and Lyft. But the retailer would end its partnership with the ride sharing companies in May 2018. Lyft’s test never expanded beyond Denver, the only market it tried.

Didi buys Uber China, ditches Lyft – August 1

Didi buys Uber China, ditches Lyft

August 1
Didi buys Uber China, ditches Lyft
Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

Lyft's ally Didi agrees to buy Uber China. Speculation erupts about what effect this would have on a strategic alliance between Didi, Lyft, Ola Cabs, and GrabTaxi, that had been ongoing since December 2015.

So long, ‘Stache – November 15

So long, ‘Stache

November 15
So long, ‘Stache
Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Lyft

Lyft announces that it will retire the pink mustaches that adorned the grills of its drivers’ cars since 2012. The company replaces the mustaches with an illuminated logo for the windshields of its drivers.

2017

Plan for 100 new cities – January 25

Plan for 100 new cities

January 25
Plan for 100 new cities
Lane Turner/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Lyft announces plans to launch in 100 new communities by the year’s end. The planned expansion would bring Lyft to a total of 300 cities, compared with 560 cities from Uber ( including international cities.)

One million rides a day – July 5

One million rides a day

July 5
One million rides a day
Christie Hemm Klok/The New York Times/Redux

Lyft says it’s serving more than one million rides per day. The milestone follows the company’s announcement that it has launched in 160 cities.

Lyft gets into self driving cars – July 21

Lyft gets into self driving cars

July 21
Lyft gets into self driving cars
Jim Wilson/The New York Times/Redux

Lyft launches its own division to work on developing self-driving cars called Level 5 Engineering.

Minnie Lyft – July 31

Minnie Lyft

July 31
Minnie Lyft
Disney Tourist Blog

Lyft partners with Walt Disney World Resort to power its "Minnie Van" service, which are vehicles decorated in Minnie Mouse patterns driven by Walt Disney World Cast Members. Lyft users that are staying at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels can hail rides and travel to destinations on park grounds.

Lyft goes international – November 13

Lyft goes international

November 13
Lyft goes international
Steve Russell/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Lyft announces plans to operate in Toronto, Canada’s largest city. The expansion marks Lyft’s first move outside of the United States, and becomes the first international city in which Lyft operates.

2018

Sexual assault investigation – April 30

Sexual assault investigation

April 30
Sexual assault investigation
Christie Hemm Klok/The New York Times/Redux

A CNN analysis of police reports, federal court records and county court databases for 20 major U.S. cities finds that Lyft, and its chief competitor Uber, are dealing with sexual assaults and abuse by its drivers. CNN found 18 cases of Lyft drivers accused in the past four years of sexually assaulting passengers. Four drivers have been convicted.

Lyft ends forced arbitration for sex assault victims – May 15

Lyft ends forced arbitration for sex assault victims

May 15
Lyft ends forced arbitration for sex assault victims
Dave Sanders/The New York Times/Redux

After a CNN investigation uncovered a sexual assault issue at ride-sharing companies, Lyft follows Uber’s lead and says it will no longer force victims of sexual assault into arbitration. Previously, upon signing up for Lyft services, users had to agree to resolve claims on an individual basis through arbitration. Critics say the practice helped companies keep the issue of sexual violence quiet.

GM says goodbye – June 6

GM says goodbye

June 6
GM says goodbye
Julien de Rosa/IP3/Getty Images

Just two years after General Motors invested $500 million, GM president Dan Ammann leaves Lyft’s board amid increasing competition between the companies. Ammann later becomes CEO of GM’s self-driving arm, Cruise.

Lyft buys a bike startup – July 2

Lyft buys a bike startup

July 2
Lyft buys a bike startup
Gabriela Bhaskar/The New York Times/Redux

Lyft announces it’s acquiring Motivate, the largest bikeshare operator in the United States.

Lyft launches a scooter business – September 6

Lyft launches a scooter business

September 6
Lyft launches a scooter business
Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Lyft launches a scooter-sharing system in Denver, Colorado.

One billion rides served – September 18

One billion rides served

September 18
One billion rides served
Dave Sander/The New York Times/Redux

Lyft reaches the one billion ride milestone.

2019

Lyft makes plans to go public – February

Lyft makes plans to go public

February
Lyft makes plans to go public
Winni Wintermeyer/Redux

Company files for IPO.

Lyft aims for a $23 billion valuation – March 18

Lyft aims for a $23 billion valuation

March 18
Lyft aims for a $23 billion valuation
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Lyft prices its IPO at between $62 and $68. The company expects to raise $2.1 billion from the stock sale. The company could be valued at as much as $23 billion.

Lyft debuts on the Nasdaq for $87 a share – March 29

Lyft debuts on the Nasdaq for $87 a share

March 29
Lyft debuts on the Nasdaq for $87 a share
Mario Tama/Getty Images

The company set a price of $72, but Lyft began trading at $87.24, a more than 20% increase. The company gave up some of those gains later in the day and ended its first day of trading at $78.29, an increase of 8.7%.