Before co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer honed the concept of ride hailing at Lyft, which has 1,000 employees, operates in 200 cities, and has raised more than $2 billion in venture capital, they built its predecessor, a ridesharing upstart called Zimride. The concept of riding in a stranger's car, for money, wasn't market tested at the time. Zimmer and Green explain why they ignored advice to pivot away from Zimride--which they sold to Enterprise in 2013.

--As told to Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

inlineimage

Zimmer: Our investor Sean Aggarwal [former finance exec at PayPal and Trulia] has been probably the best mentor and adviser that we've had. But way back in 2011, he told us point-blank to work on something else. He was like, "You guys are a great team. I'm just not sure about this carpool thing."

inlineimage

Green: It was psychologically tough to not listen to him, because he was this person who had been giving us a ton of great advice. So you wonder: Is this good advice as well? And, I mean, we felt like, look, we haven't played our hand here yet. There's so much left to do!

inlineimage

Zimmer: We really thought about what he said. But pretty quickly we realized, hey, we believe in our concept so much, and really think we've found something broken. Logan had served on a transit board and knew public transportation in cities was broken. I came from a hospitality background and saw that 80 percent of seats in cars weren't occupied most of the time. We knew we could solve this.

inlineimage

Green: It wasn't the first time we heard that our idea was stupid.

inlineimage

Zimmer: When I left my job at Lehman Brothers to start a company, my best friend's mother said, "How could you leave a sure thing like Lehman to do a silly carpool startup?" That was three months before Lehman went bankrupt. We had heard this before.

inlineimage

Green: And we'd been right before. You have to follow what you're passionate about.

From the July/August issue of Inc. magazine