Secrets to scaling a startup, from the cofounder who expanded Lyft to more than 600 cities

John ZimmerJohn Sciulli/Getty Images for LyftLearn from the pros. John Zimmer pictured.

If you’re planning to take a Lyft ride this New Year’s, look out for a 30-something¬†driver named John.

That’s John Zimmer, by the way, cofounder and president of the $US7.5 billion ride-hailing service.

On an episode of Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” Zimmer told Business Insider US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell that he and his cofounder, Logan Green, make a point of driving for Lyft on occasion.

Zimmer does it every New Year’s; more recently, he said, he’s committed to driving every month.

“It’s been really helpful to be close to our product,” Zimmer said. Driving for Lyft — and using it daily as a passenger — is one of his secrets for scaling his company, which he founded in 2012 and which now exists in more than 600 cities.


Another one of his secrets: learning how to strike a balance between “expand quickly” and “don’t expand too quickly.”

Zimmer said: “Sometimes some of the best decisions we made were to say no. So whether that was international expansion or we learned sometimes we expanded too quickly in the US and sometimes we had to redo it in a better way.”

Indeed, a 2011 report from the Startup Genome Project found that 74% of high-growth technology startups fail because of premature scaling, which is a “result of firms focusing on one dimension in their operation and advancing it out of sync with the rest of their operation.” The report indicates that “startups that scale properly grow about 20 times faster than startups that scale prematurely.”

As Zimmer put it, “It’s finding that right balance of speed.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.