- John Zimmer and Logan Green met through a mutual friend on Facebook. Both were thinking about starting a ride-sharing service.
- Lyft, then called “Zimride,” was a side project for a few years.
- The cofounders moved together to Silicon Valley, where they focused on bringing Zimride to college campuses.
- Lyft officially launched in 2012.
It was 2007, and a new college grad named John Zimmer was browsing Facebook. He noticed that a guy named Logan Green had posted on a mutual friend’s Facebook page that he was launching a carpooling network called “Zimride.”
Zimmer might have paid no notice and continued browsing. Except Zimmer had also been contemplating starting a ride-sharing service. And the resemblance to his own name was a little weird.
On an episode of Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” Zimmer shared the story with Business Insider US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell:
“I reached out to our mutual friend and I said, ‘How well do you know Logan, and why the hell did he call his company Zimride?’ Zimmer recalled. It turns out Green had named the service after taking a trip to Zimbabwe, where many people needed to share rides.
“I reached out to the mutual friend, Logan flew to New York, and we met each other,” Zimmer said. “This was 10 years ago, and we started working together.”
Zimride would later become Lyft, a ride-hailing service that, today, is worth $US7.5 billion and operates in more than 600 cities.
Zimmer and Green didn’t start building their startup immediately after connecting. At the time, Zimmer was working for Lehman Brothers in New York City. Once Zimride entered the picture, Zimmer’s goal was to save whatever money he made and put it toward his entrepreneurial ventures.
“I just was way more passionate about working on Zimride and felt like that was really important to be doing, and so I decided I was going to leave after my two-year analyst program. I was told that I was crazy to leave a sure thing like Lehman Brothers for a silly carpool startup.”
Three months after Zimmer left Lehman Brothers, the firm went bankrupt. Zimmer used Zimride to carpool across the country to meet Green, and soon after they moved to Silicon Valley. They started focusing on bringing Zimride to college campuses.
Lyft was officially born in 2012, when Zimmer and Logan had an epiphany of sorts. Zimmer said:
“Logan and I looked at ourselves and said, ‘How are we doing? It’s five years in, we had this dream of starting a business, we’ve done that.’ We had raised a couple of million dollars, which was fantastic. We had this great team of about 20 people.
“But the bigger vision, which we’ve always had, was providing a full alternative to car ownership. Our actual mission is to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation and, in doing so, to change our cities so that they are designed around people instead of cars. And we were just scratching the surface. We really didn’t feel like we were doing enough.”
They asked themselves: “What if we were starting Zimride over today? What would it look like?”
Now that smartphones were becoming more prevalent, Zimmer and Green wondered if adding a mobile component would encourage people to use the service more often.
“At the time, Uber existed, but they were just doing this for black cars and limos, and to us that was uninteresting,” Zimmer said.
“And so I thought, well, getting rides for people who are working at banks — that’s definitely not what I want to work on. But providing a full alternative to car ownership and allowing people to use their existing car to make money, that was really exciting. And so within three weeks we launched what we were about to call Zimride Instant, and luckily called Lyft, and that was the beginning of Lyft, in the middle of 2012.”
Within the next three weeks, two engineers built the Lyft app.
Zimmer said: “It’s been crazy since then.”
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