Power Players: A Profile on Lyft co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green
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Lyft cofounders John Zimmer and Logan Green are better described with their contributions as power players in our society. From every reference frame of life, success has long gained the attributes of relentless commitment. It has always involved a way of life, attitudes and values. And the entrepreneurial duo is yet another testament that creativity geared towards changing the world is a principal credential to greater achievements. Their success trail has left nothing but passion for a greener world – a service creating more efficient lifestyle while also cutting down our environmental footprint.

It was in 2007 that the duo began their journey on the $11.5 billion ride-hailing service Lyft, a subsidiary of Zimride. Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green got the business inspiration after sharing rides from California to Los Angeles in a visit to his girlfriend when he was still a student. The inspiration was rekindled after school when he travelled to Zimbabwe in 2006. While Green was there, he noticed it was difficult for many people to move around; transportation was not enough and a few locals were providing ridesharing service just because it was necessary to help others.

Green attended college at New Roads High School, Santa Monica, California. He graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with BA in Business Economics in 2006. Green became fully interested in solving transportation flaws and took a job at Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) board where he became the youngest director. His first ever ridesharing program was at UCSB; he first tried working out a partnership with Zipcar but the company didn’t have enough cars as at than to provide. Green had to acquire a few cars, more of Toyota Priuses and began a ridesharing program which allowed over 2,000 users to share only four cars they could access using radio-frequency identification.

While Lyft President and co-founder John Zimmer was an analyst at Lehman Brothers, he had thoughts of developing a rideshare program which would fill the empty seats of commuters to save travel cost and reduce traffic: “I was driving from Upstate New York to New York City and all around me were these empty seats.” Meanwhile, Zimmer had taken a class on Green cities: city and regional planning as a student – a class that focused on current challenges inherited from the designs of paleo-infrastructure. And also some classes on transportation where he learnt about the evolution of transportation structure and how cars are only used 4% of the time. He finished top of his class at School of Hotel Administration, Cornell University in 2006.

Ride-hailing Lyft cofounders met on Facebook

After Facebook opened its application programming interface (API) to third-party developers, Green ceased the opportunity to develop an app for his carpooling company -- Zimride, named after Zimbabwe’s ridesharing network. Zimmer, who had been following a journal on carpooling ideas saw Green’s Zimride launching news on a friend’s page and decided to contact him. “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 told Business Insider in an interview. Of course, it was bizarre to see someone working on his idea and at the same time using his name for the company.

Zimride’s first version was launched at Cornell University almost immediately after the duo met. And the carpool program gained about 20 percent of the entire students and after a few months, Zimride started operating in both UCSB and Cornell campuses. Zimmer took the project as part-time and was going to quit his job at Lehman Brothers. The duo had adopted a guerrilla marketing to promote Zimride and would put on frog suits to share flyers in the campus.

After five years of operation, Zimride saved more than $50 million from vehicle operating expenses, helping its service users to travel more than 100 million miles with about 26,000 carpools and 29 employees. The service had become available in more than 125 universities which pay about $10,000 yearly to use the platform and the most popular route on the platform was travelling between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Carpooling had failed in the past due to trust

Zimmer and Green focused on eliminating the major reason why carpooling had failed in the past. And the secret was to build trust between the passengers and drivers. Users were allowed to create free profiles and post the available seats in their cars, alongside personal information such as choice of music and if they do smoke. Passengers were able to share rides heading to their destination without the fear of journeying with a stranger. Zimride was connecting people working at the same company or attend the same school, mostly women.

Another trick the duo adopted was to make the drivers and passengers very comfortable with the service. Zimride allowed drivers to decide on what to charge their passengers, though based on gas costs, the company offered price suggestions. Passengers were also allowed to pay using a credit card or PayPal with the assurance of full refund if they fail to take the ride. No service fee was attached to failed deals.

Lyft from Zimbabwe inspired Zimride

John Zimmer and Logan Green launched on-demand transportation Lyft in 2012 as a service of Zimride which focused on long distance rides. Lyft became a service dedicated for short distances. Just like Zimride, Lyft uses an app to connect drivers and passengers. A notable secret here was the ability of the users (drivers and passengers) to rate each other on a scale of five-star. It became a source of gaining a reputation for trust among the service users. Through service feedback, Lyft introduced “glowstache,” a small glowing plastic moustache as an alternative to the giant moustache drivers must hang on the front of their cars for easy identification. This was, however, replaced with colour changing Amp a year after. The move was the duo’s response to riders having problems with arriving at business meetings in a car with a large fuzzy moustache.

As of January 2014, Lyft had completed over 160 million rides in total within its years of operation. And between 2014 and now, Lyft has increased its operation from 60 to 300 U.S cities. The serve was just introduced in Toronto last year December.

The duo recognized the need for flexibility in the ride-hailing services to accommodate varied demands. The company now has five services: Line, basic, Plus, Premier and Lux. A few months ago, the company announced partnering with healthcare providers to provide on-demand medical ridesharing services for hospital patients.

One would want to believe that Zimmer (34) and Green (34) are driving flamboyant as founders of a billion-dollar company. They both use Lyft in their daily commute; setting a pace for passion in achieving a world with a more efficient transportation system.

“Imagine cities where the traffic flows freely at rush hour. Imagine commutes that bring people together instead of making them angry with each other through closed car windows. Imagine greater numbers of people living closer together yet burning less energy and pouring less carbon into the air.” Green said in a publication, “The Future of Transportation.”

Recognitions

In 2009, Business Week named Lyft cofounders as finalists in the list of America’s Best Young Entrepreneurs. And in 2014, Zimmer made Forbes’ “35 Under 35: Technology” list and the duo were recognized by Inc. Magazine’s list of “35 Under 35”. Last year, Zimmer received the Cornell Hospitality Innovator Award from his alma mater, the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.

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