A history of Lyft, from fuzzy pink mustaches to global ride share giant
First it was Zimride – 2007
First it was Zimride
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.
Pink, Fuzzy Mustaches – May 22
Pink, Fuzzy Mustaches
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.
Investments start flowing – January 30
Investments start flowing
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
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
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
Lyft continues its expansion plans. After setting up shop in Dallas, Indianapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, the service expands into Silicon Valley.
Expansion plans take shape – April 24
Expansion plans take shape
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
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
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
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.
More funds arrive – March 12
More funds arrive
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
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
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
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
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
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.
GM spends big money to partner – January 5
GM spends big money to partner
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
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
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
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
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.
Plan for 100 new cities – January 25
Plan for 100 new cities
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
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
Lyft launches its own division to work on developing self-driving cars called Level 5 Engineering.
Minnie Lyft – July 31
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
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.
Sexual assault investigation – April 30
Sexual assault investigation
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
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
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
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
Lyft launches a scooter-sharing system in Denver, Colorado.
One billion rides served – September 18
One billion rides served
Lyft reaches the one billion ride milestone.
Lyft makes plans to go public – February
Lyft makes plans to go public
Company files for IPO.
Lyft aims for a $23 billion valuation – March 18
Lyft aims for a $23 billion valuation
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
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%.