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Self-driving cars are coming. But Lyft co-founder says he'll need more drivers

Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer tells CNN's Laurie Segall why despite Lyft's investment in self-driving technology, demand for drivers will stay strong.

Posted: Dec 11, 2018 5:58 PM
Updated: Dec 11, 2018 5:58 PM

Right now, Lyft is thriving. In the last year, the company expanded its business into bikes, scooters and self-driving cars, and has grown to 4,500 employees. It's ridden a wave of user growth as some customers switched to the platform following a series of scandals at rival Uber. And it recently filed to go public in early 2019, a move that could raise billions of dollars.

But things were different in 2014. Uber had raised over a billion dollars in two separate fundraising rounds, giving it at least 10 times the capital Lyft had. Critics wondered if Lyft, which had only a few hundred employees, would even survive. Adding to the tumult, a key Lyft executive quit to join Uber, leading to litigation that was later settled.

"I was in a funk for several months," Lyft co-founder John Zimmer told CNN's Laurie Segall in a recent interview, speaking of that year. "I was depressed. I didn't know what to do. It was foggy and I didn't necessarily take action and focus on what I could control. I got overwhelmed with the things I couldn't control. ... I think that's normal, and I've learned a lot from it. I was slower to lead, I think, in that moment because I had to get myself right."

At the time, Zimmer leaned on his wife and on Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green for support.

"[Green] tried to help me focus on the positives," Zimmer said. "[He said], 'Look, let's enjoy this journey. Let's make the best of it. Let's continue to fight for the values we believe in,' and it luckily worked out."

More entrepreneurs are speaking up about the toll that starting a business can take on one's mental health. Tesla founder Elon Musk previously compared the process to "staring into the abyss and eating glass." Research indicates a high rate of depression among entrepreneurs, citing stressful work environments, lifetime mental health conditions and family history.

Leah Weiss, who lectures at Stanford Business School on mindful and compassionate leadership, called Zimmer's revelation heartening.

"My ideal world is one where we can talk freely about our strengths and weaknesses in a number of areas," Weiss said. "For a business to be well run, you need a lot of different kinds of thinking."

Zimmer has been the public face of Lyft as the company worked to escape from Uber's shadow.

"He enjoys it and he's amazing at it," Green told CNN Business earlier this year, noting he's happy to have Zimmer to do public work that a CEO often handles.

Zimmer, 34, will be in the spotlight next year as Lyft may become the first of the major two ridesharing companies to go public.

But he envisions a future for Lyft that is far broader than just ridesharing. The company has a self-driving vehicle program with new offices in Munich and London to develop software and hardware. It recently hired electric vehicle experts as it explores e-bikes and electric scooters. This year the company acquired Motivate, the country's largest bikeshare service, and has since rolled out rentable e-scooters to streets in Denver. They already make up 15% of Lyft's rides in the city.

"We're just scratching the surface of the possibilities of bikes and other electric vehicles that are small," Zimmer said. "The mold of a car looking like a car or needing to be the way it is I think is going to change dramatically."

Uber still leads in trips completed: it hit a 10 billion trip milestone in July, compared to Lyft's one billion mark a couple months later. But Zimmer remains focused on bringing a human touch to the company's business. That element is what helped him get through the tough times, he said.

"I have a lot more perspective than I had in the moment. I think in the moment it was scary. One, we cared so deeply, as we do today, about our mission... And you had this entity that had [many] times the amount of cash as you, that wanted to destroy you, and it was very clear that they were willing to go to whatever means to do that. ... And so we were, I'd say, more hungry. The why behind our work was stronger than, I would say, other companies'. And we just kept grinding and pushing, to the point now where we now have markets that have more market share than they do. And I think that's because of that focus on people."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307519

Reported Deaths: 7096
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20772248
Hinds19888408
Harrison17489302
Rankin13311275
Jackson13097243
Madison9895210
Lee9856169
Jones8290160
Forrest7523146
Lauderdale7187237
Lowndes6262144
Lamar610584
Lafayette6027117
Washington5280132
Bolivar4769129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4442103
Pearl River4419139
Warren4280118
Marshall4273100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4057132
Union403675
Neshoba3987176
Lincoln3869108
Hancock372085
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322681
Pike3180104
Scott310572
Yazoo304368
Alcorn297764
Itawamba296776
Copiah292965
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284668
Prentiss275659
Marion265779
Wayne261341
Leake261073
Grenada254982
Covington254580
Adams245882
Newton244859
George237847
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213273
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182454
Stone179131
Clarke176876
Tallahatchie175240
Calhoun163230
Yalobusha158836
Smith158534
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126223
Noxubee125933
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite120041
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95226
Humphreys94332
Franklin81823
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 518899

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753641487
Mobile37763798
Madison33859494
Tuscaloosa25266443
Montgomery23962565
Shelby23106238
Baldwin20631300
Lee15524165
Calhoun14284311
Morgan14139268
Etowah13662345
Marshall11957219
Houston10380278
Elmore9993200
Limestone9811147
Cullman9470188
St. Clair9426234
Lauderdale9215227
DeKalb8746181
Talladega8058171
Walker7087275
Jackson6754110
Autauga6723103
Blount6483135
Colbert6203130
Coffee5399112
Dale4767110
Russell428838
Franklin419982
Chilton4083109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3893146
Escambia387674
Dallas3527149
Chambers3499122
Clarke346360
Marion3065100
Pike305875
Lawrence295395
Winston272372
Bibb256258
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224755
Hale218775
Butler212266
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176941
Monroe171440
Washington164038
Macon154548
Clay149354
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146041
Lamar139234
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99228
Greene90734
Choctaw58724
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