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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.

Confirmed Cases: 98190

Reported Deaths: 2969
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7189161
DeSoto569464
Harrison394175
Jackson358570
Rankin337280
Madison334190
Lee293572
Forrest254275
Jones252780
Washington227879
Lafayette221240
Lauderdale2078126
Bolivar187370
Oktibbeha181952
Lamar176237
Lowndes160858
Neshoba1599104
Panola151631
Sunflower149146
Leflore143882
Warren141850
Pontotoc130116
Monroe125369
Pike124954
Copiah119933
Scott118027
Coahoma117530
Lincoln112353
Marshall111821
Grenada110136
Holmes110060
Yazoo106733
Simpson105847
Tate101938
Union101224
Leake96538
Adams94937
Wayne91521
Pearl River91453
Prentiss88418
Marion87537
Itawamba85921
Alcorn83411
Covington83223
George78513
Tallahatchie78324
Newton78124
Winston74619
Tishomingo71039
Tippah70518
Chickasaw69524
Attala67225
Clarke61149
Walthall60426
Clay59919
Hancock59822
Jasper58415
Noxubee55816
Smith55115
Calhoun52912
Tunica50015
Montgomery47020
Claiborne46516
Yalobusha44414
Lawrence43914
Perry43221
Quitman3905
Greene38917
Stone38013
Humphreys37715
Jefferson Davis34711
Amite34210
Webster33913
Carroll33112
Wilkinson30818
Kemper29115
Sharkey26714
Jefferson2439
Benton2333
Franklin1993
Choctaw1876
Issaquena1063
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 137564

Reported Deaths: 2399
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson20221352
Mobile13558295
Tuscaloosa9029118
Montgomery8894187
Madison800580
Shelby616450
Lee601761
Baldwin564052
Marshall398345
Etowah357545
Calhoun356944
Morgan334929
Houston295421
Elmore273948
DeKalb246121
St. Clair237937
Walker236987
Talladega219030
Limestone215720
Cullman192220
Dallas179926
Franklin179430
Autauga179127
Russell17903
Lauderdale175934
Colbert168426
Blount162915
Escambia162024
Jackson161112
Chilton160930
Dale141844
Covington141628
Coffee13936
Pike122011
Chambers117942
Tallapoosa117385
Clarke110916
Marion97629
Butler91740
Barbour8967
Winston75112
Marengo72820
Pickens67215
Randolph67213
Bibb66411
Lowndes65927
Hale65328
Geneva6505
Lawrence63625
Cherokee62013
Bullock61015
Clay5929
Monroe5928
Washington56012
Crenshaw54532
Perry5436
Conecuh53811
Wilcox53211
Henry5145
Macon48318
Fayette47311
Sumter43419
Cleburne4085
Lamar3822
Choctaw35212
Greene30615
Coosa1743
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