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This month we bring to you - ‘How I Built This with Guy Raz’
How I Built This is a podcast hosted by Guy Raz. He dives into the stories behind some of the world's best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built.
In 2006, John Zimmer was a college student and ride-hailing wasn't yet "a thing." But a class on green cities got him thinking about the glut of underused cars on the road. Eventually, he co-founded Lyft, a company that has helped make ride-hailing a fixture of American urban living.
To know how LYFT came to life, listen to the podcast below, or just go through some pointers and conversations we curated from the the podcast below.
-he quickly grew to realize the challenges in public transportation and came to the conclusion that across the country when you pay to get on the bus, you're really only covering about 30 percent of the operating cost. So what that means is a $3 bus fare actually costs the government 10. And as the lines get more busy, they get harder to fund and harder to add service levels. So actually - the more busy they get, the worse they get.
-So like you said, we had these physical bulletin boards or digital bulletin boards for people going along the same way, if they're going home for spring break or fall break. But there was no identity or ratings behind that. And so it was limited in how many people actually used them. And so we thought, how can we make a safer system? And, you know, if you tied something to a social network like Facebook, you could have a profile of the individual you're going to share a ride with and follow up with ratings of how that ride experience was, which would create a safer and more broadly used environment for carpooling on college campuses.
-It was really like a chicken or egg problem where the idea of having a lot of seats to choose from on your way home from, say, Cornell in upstate New York to go to New York City was exciting. You know, there's very few bus routes. Not everyone owned a car or had a car on campus. And so if I could go on, you know, and buy a seat in someone else's car for $20 or $30, that would be really exciting. But it had to be there. It had to be available. We had to create both sides of the marketplace.
-You know, the next step was let's sell a private network to the various universities. And we were able to, over a few-year period, sell to 150 universities and companies that would pay us an annual fee for this private carpooling network.
-And we stop and look at ourselves and say, you know, how are things going? And what would we do if we were starting over today? I think that's a really helpful exercise. And what was true in 2012 that was not true when we started was the proliferation of smartphones and operating systems that would enable more short-term planning and short distance transportation.
-No. It was, hey, I have a car and I have time. And I'm going to go drive other people around for a payment. And it goes back to kind of my hospitality experience of, how do we create something that was centered around service, about treating driver and passenger with respect? But also you've got to remember what is now accepted as normal of getting into someone else's vehicle was not at all normal at the time.
-In fact, we had to work to change people's behavior and in the early days suggesting people sit up front and creating this your friend with a car hospitality environment. We felt that, one, it opened the audience to a larger set of drivers. You know, if you go in a room of our - a hundred of our friends and you ask, how many of you are willing to drive a taxi? A couple of hands maybe go up. When you say, how many of you are willing to share a ride? You know, 75 hands would go up.And so we wanted to create the experience around that because after many, many years of being, you know, told not to do this behavior and many, many years of seeing a yellow vehicle and thinking that that is safe just because it's yellow, we had a lot of, you know, behavior change to kind of push through.
-So I'd say it was probably the second half of 2012 where we, you know, it started to take off. We started to divert resources from Zimride over to Lyft. And then really in January of 2013 we said, OK, we need to go all-in on this. This is a massive opportunity. This has been incredibly successful with a small amount of focus. But that was a really in many ways a tough moment because we had worked for, you know, four or five years on Zimride. And we were deciding to divert all of our attention to an entirely new model.
-And our approach to regulations is to really understand the motivations and the needs of the regulating entity because we understand they have a very important job. And so we went in and asked that. We said, hey, look, are - is this a matter, you know, of public safety, or is this about, you know, existing industries? And they said public safety, of course. And so we said, we don't own vehicles. We don't have employees driving for us, so we don't fall into the category that you currently have.
-I'd say at least a year. Probably for that first year if I was to pick the one thing I spent most of my time on was the government relations and was working to create a new regulatory category for the space. And then, you know, not just doing that in one state, but being able to demonstrate that in multiple cities and states.
- We believe that by building what we're building we can make our cities designed around people instead of cars. And by having the right values and ethics, we can impact society in a way that's bigger than the transportation we provide.
-Sure. I mean, it's that, you know, I saw the rise and fall of Lehman right before my eyes. And I think that creates the right sense of awareness when building a company that you've seen something like that. But when you look at the future, you know, you talk about autonomous cars. An autonomous car is not going to drop out of the sky and be able to do a hundred percent of our trips. That's not real. What's real is that over the next couple years, it'll be able to do a few percent of our trips - 10 percent of our trips, 50 percent of our trips.
-Until we've accomplished the fact that you don't need to own a car in a city, until we've accomplished the fact that we don't need as many roads and parking lots in our cities, until we allow for our cities to be, you know, redesigned around the people living in them instead of the cars that are parked in them, then we're not happy.
Listen to the entire podcast here
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