Happiness Zengeni in SAN FRANCISCO
United States transport sharing company Lyft plans to go international in 2015 and is currently involved in conversations with governments around the world. Lyft is a peer to peer ride sharing service company offering customers a cheap alternative to taxis through a mobile phone application, helping the unemployed and underemployed earn a living. Lyft co-founder Logan Green told a group of touring journalists last Friday that the concept to start the company was taken from Zimbabwe where car sharing is common (Zimbabweans call them “lifts”).
“Despite the lack of a public transport system, people in Zimbabwe were able to get around efficiently thanks to a vibrant ride sharing movement. Every car and mini-bus (which they call kombis) was full.”
He said after the Zimbabwe trip, together with John Zimmer, they started Zimride in 2007, which focused on ride-sharing for longer trips often between US cities.
“A lot of people think that Zimride was taken from Zimmer but in fact, it was adopted from the Zimbabwe concept of car sharing.”
As such, the Lyft drivers are regular folks with underutilised cars. They are college students, engineers, entrepreneurs and retirees.
The group said Lyft is still on a growth path with the service offered in about 60 cities across the country. But Lyft is growing fast as well. Despite being focused on domestic markets, Lyft has seen rapid growth, recording 6 percent growth every week.
The company also keeps hosting interesting events to attract riders. Last year, they ran a trial version of Prime Time Tips in Los Angeles that provided drivers with a premium payment of up to 25 percent during peak traffic hours.
Earlier this year, they also released Happy Hour, a discounted rate service during the lean hours of the day. The group said it was now doing more than two million rides a month.
Lyft is venture funded with $332,5 million raised from QueensBridge Venture Partners, Coatue Management, Mayfield Fund, Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Alibaba, Ooga Labs, K9 Ventures, FLOODGATE, AFSquare, and Keith Rabois.
Their latest round of funding was held in April this year, when they raised $250 million from QueensBridge Venture Partners, Coatue Management, Mayfield Fund, Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz and Alibaba at a $700 million valuation.
Lyft plans to use these funds for market expansion including growth in international markets.
All drivers are subjected to DMV and criminal background checks, and are required to undergo in-person interviews, vehicle inspections and a two-hour training session. At the end of the trip, passengers pay the driver and Lyft gets 20 percent of the charge.
Its fiercest rival is Uber, which is bigger as it has operations in over 261 cities in 45 countries. Uber is valued at over $17 billion.
Both Lyft and Uber trips are covered by insurance while growth will also be pushed by an increase in smartphone penetration rates.
Zimbabwe currently has 10 percent smartphone penetration rate.