The evolution of the ridesharing business has been largely contentious, as companies like Lyft and Uber battle regulators, insurance companies, and each other. But people want the service, and growth has been extraordinary. At Fast Company's Innovation Uncensored conference in San Francisco today, Lyft president John Zimmer revealed that his company, which has expanded from 15 to almost 65 cities in 12 months, has seen five-fold growth in both revenue and riders since the beginning of 2014.
"The space is massive, it's way bigger than people thought when we started," said Zimmer. "This year we've 5x'd our rides as well as revenue, and that's before some of our busiest periods like Thanksgiving."
Zimmer attributes the growth to consumers' attraction to the peer-to-peer model of transportation, which Lyft has focused on exclusively. Much is made in the press of the competition between Lyft and Uber, but Zimmer sees the two companies as inhabiting two completely different categories—while Uber is primarily a black car service, Lyft is focused on people sharing rides.
"Transportation is going to transition from ownership to transportation as a service," said Zimmer. "What is the best model to address the largest part of that market? We believe it's peer-to-peer. How do we get everyone in this audience to be a Lyft driver? How many people here would be willing to be a friend with a car?"
Zimmer also addressed Uber's edge in attracting investment—Uber has raised billions while Lyft has raised just over $300 million.
"There's the opportunity for somewhat of a bias when you have a black car premium service that you're pitching to investors, who themselves are more likely to use that service," said Zimmer. "But we're also seeing others who are hearing from their kids that they want peer-to-peer."
Lyft's focus on the everyman has recently extended to the wildly successful Lyft Line carpool service aimed at commuters, which offers discounts of 30% to 60% for sharing a Lyft ride with others. According to Zimmer, in San Francisco, about a third of all Lyft rides are Lyft Lines, just two months after the service's launch.
"Lyft Line came out of the vision that we've had from the beginning, which is how do we get the most affordable ride to everyone?" said Zimmer. "Eighty percent of seats at all times on the road are empty. In Los Angeles, average car occupancy is 1.1, and if it were 1.3 there would be no traffic. When you request a Lyft, 90% of the time there is someone else going within a half mile of your destination. We've seen this on our platform so now we're matching up these rides for a discount."
Zimmer also sees Lyft's peer-to-peer platform working well with future transportation innovations such as driverless cars.
"You're still going to need networks to create efficiency, to create relationships," said Zimmer. "Driverless pods could have people who want to watch the same movie. Or there could be Tinder pods."