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Lyft's John Zimmer put it all on the line to catch Uber

Right now, Lyft is thriving. In the last year, the company expanded its business into bikes, scooters and se...

Posted: Dec 11, 2018 11:49 AM
Updated: Dec 11, 2018 11:49 AM

Right now, Lyft is thriving. In the last year, the company expanded its business into bikes, scooters and self-driving cars, and has grown to 4,500 employees. It's ridden a wave of user growth as some customers switched to the platform following a series of scandals at rival Uber. And it recently filed to go public in early 2019, a move that could raise billions of dollars.

But things were different in 2014. Uber had raised over a billion dollars in two separate fundraising rounds, giving it 10 times the capital Lyft had. Critics wondered if Lyft, which had only a few hundred employees, would even survive. Adding to the tumult, a key Lyft executive quit to join Uber, leading to litigation that was later settled.

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Car sharing

Companies

Ground transportation

Lyft

Sharing and on-demand economy

Transportation and warehousing

Uber

Depression

Diseases and disorders

Health and medical

Mental health

Mental illnesses

Business figures

Logan Green

"I was in a funk for several months," Lyft co-founder John Zimmer told CNN's Laurie Segall in a recent interview, speaking of that year. "I was depressed. I didn't know what to do. It was foggy and I didn't necessarily take action and focus on what I could control. I got overwhelmed with the things I couldn't control. ... I think that's normal, and I've learned a lot from it. I was slower to lead, I think, in that moment because I had to get myself right."

At the time, Zimmer leaned on his wife and on Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green for support.

"[Green] tried to help me focus on the positives," Zimmer said. "[He said], 'Look, let's enjoy this journey. Let's make the best of it. Let's continue to fight for the values we believe in,' and it luckily worked out."

More entrepreneurs are speaking up about the toll that starting a business can take on one's mental health. Tesla founder Elon Musk previously compared the process to "staring into the abyss and eating glass." Research indicates a high rate of depression among entrepreneurs, citing stressful work environments, lifetime mental health conditions and family history.

Leah Weiss, who lectures at Stanford Business School on mindful and compassionate leadership, called Zimmer's revelation heartening.

"My ideal world is one where we can talk freely about our strengths and weaknesses in a number of areas," Weiss said. "For a business to be well run, you need a lot of different kinds of thinking."

Zimmer has been the public face of Lyft as the company worked to escape from Uber's shadow.

"He enjoys it and he's amazing at it," Green told CNN Business earlier this year, noting he's happy to have Zimmer to do public work that a CEO often handles.

Zimmer, 34, will be in the spotlight next year as Lyft may become the first of the major two ridesharing companies to go public.

But he envisions a future for Lyft that is far broader than just ridesharing. The company has a self-driving vehicle program with new offices in Munich and London to develop software and hardware. It recently hired electric vehicle experts as it explores e-bikes and electric scooters. This year the company acquired Motivate, the country's largest bikeshare service, and has since rolled out rentable e-scooters to streets in several cities, including Denver. They already make up 15% of Lyft's rides in the city.

"We're just scratching the surface of the possibilities of bikes and other electric vehicles that are small," Zimmer said. "The mold of a car looking like a car or needing to be the way it is I think is going to change dramatically."

Uber still leads in trips completed: it hit a 10 billion trip milestone in July, compared to Lyft's one billion mark a couple months later. But Zimmer remains focused on bringing a human touch to the company's business. That element is what helped him get through the tough times, he said.

"I have a lot more perspective than I had in the moment. I think in the moment it was scary. One, we cared so deeply, as we do today, about our mission... And you had this entity that had [many] times the amount of cash as you, that wanted to destroy you, and it was very clear that they were willing to go to whatever means to do that. ... And so we were, I'd say, more hungry. The why behind our work was stronger than, I would say, other companies'. And we just kept grinding and pushing, to the point now where we now have markets that have more market share than they do. And I think that's because of that focus on people."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 751526

Reported Deaths: 13799
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033281788
Lake557151010
Allen41710692
St. Joseph36998565
Hamilton36604417
Elkhart29413461
Tippecanoe22914227
Vanderburgh22559400
Porter19359326
Johnson18477389
Hendricks17689317
Clark13228195
Madison13158344
Vigo12625253
LaPorte12420221
Monroe12211176
Delaware10968198
Howard10337225
Kosciusko9630121
Hancock8577147
Bartholomew8172157
Warrick7860156
Floyd7812180
Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6972103
Morgan6765141
Dubois6221118
Marshall6211116
Cass6017110
Henry5902110
Dearborn589878
Noble581688
Jackson509176
Shelby501796
Lawrence4745122
Gibson445094
Clinton442755
Harrison441775
DeKalb439885
Montgomery438490
Whitley406643
Huntington403181
Steuben400259
Miami395269
Jasper388654
Knox376391
Putnam373260
Wabash362383
Ripley347270
Adams345555
Jefferson336186
White332253
Daviess3033100
Wells295381
Decatur289892
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273172
Scott270156
Clay267148
Washington246136
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234631
Starke228058
Fountain221048
Sullivan214643
Owen212158
Fulton203042
Jay200932
Carroll193720
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion174844
Franklin170335
Tipton166446
Parke149616
Pike138134
Blackford136232
Pulaski120747
Newton114336
Brown104243
Crawford102516
Benton101914
Martin91715
Warren84015
Switzerland8148
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0420

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1109025

Reported Deaths: 20166
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1287651467
Cuyahoga1158292211
Hamilton814131250
Montgomery525601043
Summit484401001
Lucas43364820
Butler39021606
Stark33339929
Lorain25679505
Warren24600303
Mahoning22378603
Lake21213388
Clermont20125253
Delaware18860136
Licking16664222
Fairfield16577204
Trumbull16555482
Medina15613271
Greene15284248
Clark14237306
Wood13293200
Portage13251215
Allen11914239
Richland11608211
Miami10850225
Wayne9147223
Columbiana9036230
Muskingum8907135
Pickaway8664122
Tuscarawas8651250
Marion8646138
Erie8057165
Ashtabula7162179
Hancock6999132
Ross6946161
Geauga6841151
Scioto6536106
Belmont6159174
Union584649
Lawrence5734102
Jefferson5680158
Huron5547122
Sandusky5443126
Darke5420129
Seneca5349128
Washington5320109
Athens524360
Auglaize502287
Mercer487385
Shelby476895
Knox4572112
Madison444466
Ashland435797
Putnam4336103
Defiance432399
Fulton432174
Crawford4040110
Brown402461
Logan387677
Preble3856105
Clinton379166
Ottawa373681
Highland359865
Williams348278
Champaign344859
Guernsey325153
Jackson318254
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285550
Hardin275465
Henry273467
Holmes2703101
Coshocton269060
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240850
Wyandot234756
Hocking220563
Carroll197348
Paulding176542
Meigs148540
Monroe136344
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan109624
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
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