Editor's note: On Thursday, December 6, Lyft said it had confidentially filed a draft registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, indicating the company plans to file an initial public offering, the Wall Street Journal reports. The IPO is expected to take place during the first half of 2019, though the number of shares that will be offered and the price range have yet to be determined.

Not every company can go up against the biggest kid on the playground and hold its own--but Lyft has done that and more

The second-biggest ride-hailing company in America has faced cease-and-desist letters from local governments, lawsuits, and political and regulatory battles in addition to its never-ending mano-a-mano with chief rival Uber. But by September 2018, six years after Lyft launched, the San Francisco ride-hailing company, which is now valued at $15 billion with approximately 35 percent of the ride-hail market, announced it hit over 1 billion rides.

"If you look back to the first four or five years of Lyft, we were in survival mode--the odds were stacked against us. But now we've increased market share significantly, we've raised the resources to build out the team we need, and we finally have a year that we're able to be in offense mode," says John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft.

A Year of Growth

Indeed, with 1.4 million drivers across all 50 states, the company Zimmer co-founded in 2012 with Logan Green has notched impressive milestones. It announced that it surpassed  $1 billion in revenue in 2017; it continues to make strides in its driver-less car program. It also increased its market share to 35 percent and doubled its valuation from just over $7 billion last year to $15.1 billion after raising $600 million from Fidelity Investments, hedge fund Senator Investment Group, and others.

What's more, in July it announced plans to acquire the country's biggest bike-share operator, Motivate. The deal gives Lyft domain over 80 percent of all bike-share rides in the U.S., including programs like Citi Bike in New York, Ford GoBike in the San Francisco Bay area, Divvy in Chicago, and others in Boston, D.C., Portland, and elsewhere.

"This year is all about putting our vision into action, which is to offer a more affordable alternative to car ownership," says Zimmer, who has long envisioned a world that's less reliant on cars. In 2008, he started a carpooling company with Green called Zimride. 

A World With Fewer Cars

Bikes are a natural growth area for Lyft. The company's second non-car foray came in September when it edged into the already heated e-scooter war. That battle is currently being fought across the U.S. by startups like Lime and Bird, each worth over a $1 billion. Lyft launched its first fleet of 250 pay-by-the-minute electric scooters in Denver this September and expanded to Santa Monica, California, and Washington, D.C.

Lyft is planning to go public in 2019, as is rival Uber. According to the Information, which obtained confidential financial data, Lyft increased its gross profit margin to 45 percent in the third quarter of 2018, up from 38 percent during the same period last year. Further, within the first nine months of 2018, Lyft more than doubled its revenue to reach $1.47 billion from last year.

Lyft is not stopping at e-scooters, bikes, and going public. Lyft's autonomous vehicle project is in beta and its self-driving cars already cart some employees to and from the Palo Alto, California, train station and Lyft's office.

In the future that Zimmer and Green are building, people will buy a miles plan from  Lyft, like the monthly subscription model the company recently launched, and stop using their cars entirely. Some trips will be operated by human drivers, others will be autonomous. 

To be sure, building a world that's less reliant on cars is naturally risky for a company that's reliant on them. Zimmer is undeterred by the prospect, however.

"The goal Logan [Green] and I have had over the last 10 years--to offer a cheaper alternative to owning a car--hasn't changed. At first it was Zimride, and now its Lyft. But the ways we solve for it continue to adapt," Zimmer says. "We won't be happy until we have accomplished the goal of your not needing to own a car and until our cities can be designed around people instead of cars."

Published on: Nov 28, 2018