With Uber apparently hemorrhaging users thanks to its botched response to protests against Donald Trump's ban on immigration from seven troubled countries, rival Lyft stuck a million dollar knife in the wound on Sunday.
When New York taxis drivers called a one-hour work stoppage Saturday in solidarity with the protests, Uber responded by removing surge pricing for John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the protests were taking place. Although Uber later clarified that the move was not meant to break the strike, it was perceived online by many as supportive of Trump's controversial executive order and the hashtag #deleteUber trended for several hours with screenshots of outraged users deleting the app.
Clearly seeing an opportunity, Lyft announced Sunday in an e-mail to users and on its blog that it would donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over the next four years.
"This weekend, Trump closed the country's borders to refugees, immigrants, and even documented residents from around the world based on their country of origin," wrote the company's founders. "Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft's and our nation's core values. We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community."
The ACLU filed a suit in response to Trump's executive order on behalf of two immigrants with valid visas who were detained at JFK airport. A federal judge later granted a stay of parts of the order in response to the petition.
Lyft's move is about kicking Uber while it's down, but it's also a bet that it knows its users better than the competition. Lyft is banking that its millennial user base is as disturbed by the new President as it is, and if that bet pays off, it could pay handsome dividends.
Uber, on the other hand, has bet that working with Trump is the smartest way to navigate the coming years, with CEO Travis Kalanick joining the President's economic advisory board. Kalanick said in response to the brouhaha this weekend that he would bring users' concerns directly to the President.
Time will tell if participants in the sharing economy are all so put off by Trump and if they are, do they get more warm fuzzies from a ride-sharing company looking to influence the administration from the inside or agitating from outside?
So far, Lyft seems to be winning the first round via a battle of hashtags, for whatever that's worth.