'We were told we were crazy' — Lyft's founders describe how far the company has come in a new letter in its IPO filing

John Sciulli/Getty Images for LyftLyft’s cofounder John Zimmer at a Lyft driver rally.
  • Lyft on Friday publicly filed for an initial public offering.
  • As part of the paperwork, Lyft’s founders, Logan Green and John Zimmer, published a letter outlining the company’s vision for the future.
  • In the letter, they detail their philosophy about ride-hailing and the reason they spell Lyft with a “y.”

The ride-hailing startup Lyft has officially unveiled its plans to go public. The long-anticipated announcement came Friday after the company confidentially filed for an initial public offering with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in December.

The filing includes a letter from Lyft’s founders, John Zimmer and Logan Green, who created the company in 2012. In the letter, they discuss the ride-hailing business as their “life’s work.”

“We were told we were crazy to think people would ride in each other’s personal vehicles,” the founders wrote of the service’s early days.

The letter also indicates that the founders believe ride-hailing apps will affect the transportation industry similarly to the way Netflix, Spotify, and other streaming services have changed entertainment.

“The good news is that recent innovation has helped redefine entire industries around a simple reality: you no longer need to own a product to enjoy its benefits,” the letter says.

Citing internal data, Green and Zimmer estimated that more than 300,000 Lyft riders had given up their personal cars because of Lyft. They also said that in 2018, 46% of Lyft riders said they’d used their cars less because of Lyft.

The letter also details why the company spells its name with the letter “y”: “The why in what Lyft is doing is most important to us, as well as the cities and communities we serve, and it will always be our company’s North Star.”

The move puts Lyft ahead of its biggest rival, Uber, as well as several other high-profile startups, including Pinterest, Postmates, and Slack, all of which are expected to go public this year.

See below for the full letter, which can also be found here.

OUR LIFE’S WORK

A letter from our co-founders

It’s time to redesign our cities around people, not cars.

Over the last 50 years, urban development has centered around the automobile, but imagine for a minute, what our world could look like if we found a way to take most of these cars off the road. It would be a world with less traffic and less pollution. A world where we need less parking – where streets can be narrowed and footpaths widened. It’s a world where pedestrians, bikers, and children can navigate a city just as quickly and safely as an automobile. That’s a world built around people, not cars.

Every day, millions of people connect in Lyft rides, helping demonstrate that people from all backgrounds, neighbourhoods and walks of life can come together – even when just for a short trip. This happens when a rider who had a tough day is comforted by their driver’s kind words. It happens when a driver and rider with opposing political views meet on common ground. And it happens when someone gets a safe ride home, a ride to the doctor or a ride to a job interview.

Focusing on purpose and people isn’t just the right thing to do, it provides a lasting competitive advantage.

Life is Better When You Share the Ride

For us, this work is personal. Growing up in Los Angeles traffic, Logan was inspired to find a better way to get around. As a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Logan launched the university’s first car-sharing program and was the youngest member to serve on the board of the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District.

At the same time, John was studying at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, looking for ways to apply the principles of hospitality outside of hotels and restaurants. He took a city planning course, Green Cities, which sparked his interest in infusing hospitality with transportation to improve people’s quality of life.

We came together in 2007 to launch Zimride, a carpool matching service for universities and companies. In 2012, we launched Lyft and pioneered the idea of on-demand peer-to-peer ridesharing. In those early days, we were told we were crazy to think people would ride in each other’s personal vehicles. One billion rides later, we’re able to look back on an industry that has been defined by the products Lyft pioneered-and we’re able to look forward with excitement to the next generation of transportation services that will be led and created by our team.

The World’s Best Transportation

Today’s transportation status quo is unacceptable. Americans spend over $US1 trillion every year owning and operating their cars, making it the second highest household expense (more money than Americans spend on food).28 Yet, each car is only used five per cent of the time. On top of all that, every year there are 37,000 traffic-related deaths, and an additional 58,000 deaths caused by air pollution coming from U.S. road transportation. People and our cities are trapped in an unhealthy and inefficient car ownership ecosystem, and it’s time for a solution.

The good news is that recent innovation has helped redefine entire industries around a simple reality: you no longer need to own a product to enjoy its benefits. We’ve seen this play out in the entertainment industry with the introduction of streaming (Netflix, Apple, Spotify) and in computing with the shift to the Cloud (AWS, Google, Salesforce), but never before, and possibly never again, will an industry this large flip from an ownership model to a service model.

A full shift to Transportation-as-a-Service that offers more safe, affordable, reliable and enjoyable experiences across ridesharing, bike and scooter sharing and transit is finally possible. And, we’re beginning to see the early signs of this transition. Based on internal data, we estimate over 300,000 Lyft riders have given up their personal cars because of Lyft, and in 2018, 46% of our riders said they used their cars less because of Lyft.32 By providing riders with the best way to enjoy all modes of transportation in one place, Lyft will deliver the one thing people really want: the true freedom to ride.

The Y in Lyft

The why in what Lyft is doing is most important to us, as well as the cities and communities we serve, and it will always be our company’s North Star.

Lyft’s mission is to: improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation.

We work to improve people’s lives in three key ways:

1.Socially: by providing a tangible means to bring millions of people and their communities together.

2.Economically: by unlocking affordable transportation access and flexible earnings to improve individuals’ economic mobility.

3.Environmentally: by redesigning the way consumers access transportation, Lyft will play a large role in driving carbon out of the transportation ecosystem.

We’ve been able to drive industry-leading growth against many odds, fuelled by a company culture that attracts and retains top talent who is passionate about our shared purpose. In today’s world, operating with a genuine mission is essential to establishing an enduring brand and successful business.

The Road Ahead

Over the last 10 years, we’ve made early progress towards our vision, and today Lyft is a thriving business addressing one of the largest market opportunities of our lifetime. In 2018, we served over 30 million riders and nearly 2 million drivers, achieving $US8.1 billion in Bookings and $US2.2 billion in revenue.

As Lyft’s business impact expands, so too does its social impact. Our driver community has earned more than $US10 billion since inception. In 2018, Lyft riders increased their local spending by more than $US2.5 billion due to more accessible transportation.33 And we made all Lyft rides carbon neutral by purchasing offsets for over one million tons of carbon emissions in 2018.

We’re proud of the momentum and even more excited by what lies ahead. Just 1% of miles travelled in the United States happen on rideshare networks.34 The road ahead represents a massive opportunity to serve our communities and drive value for our stockholders.

We take this responsibility to serve our communities and stockholders seriously, and we look forward to proving that with actions and results. If we told you we were building the world’s best canal, railroad or highway infrastructure, you’d understand that this would take time. In that same light, the opportunity ahead requires

continued long-term thinking, focus and execution. In order to best deliver long-term value, we will drive the business forward with three key principles:

1.We first serve drivers and riders.

2.We prioritise the long-term health of the business, over day-to-day reactions of the markets.

3.We thoughtfully balance investments in growth and profitability considerations, while deliberately leaning more towards growth (especially in these early days).

Lyft has the opportunity to deliver one of the most significant shifts to society since the advent of the car. We do not take that lightly, and we intend to lead this shift with integrity, humanity and strong execution.

Thank you to our community of drivers, riders and team members for making this possible.

Onward,

Logan Green, Co-Founder

John Zimmer, Co-Founder

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