How Lyft plans to outmaneuver Uber

Speaking at SXSW on Monday, Lyft CEO Logan Green said the company "never set out to create a better taxi"

AUSTIN — The battle between transportation apps Uber and Lyft is far from over, but Lyft CEO Logan Green says his company is different from its competitor because it focuses on making ride-sharing accessible to the majority of people.

"We have completely different visions for the world," Green said of his rival during a SXSW keynote on Monday. "Our vision for the world is making car ownership unnecessary. We never set out to create a better taxi cab."

Uber’s original business model was "everybody’s private driver," he said, but most people can’t afford that.

"We’re innovating to bring our price point down," Green said. "For every dollar you knock off the price, you open up to a huge portion of the market."

Six months ago the company launched Lyft Line, which matches riders with others going in a similar direction. The cheaper service now accounts for the majority of Lyft rides in San Francisco, Green said.

Uber’s carpooling service, UberPool, launched shortly afterwards in San Francisco and New York.

The ability to bring people together makes Lyft’s brand unique, Green argued. The CEO himself is a Lyft driver — "I made $20 on the way to work the other day," he said.

Lyft also emphasizes flexibility for its drivers. Green said the average Lyft driver does it for about 15 hours per week. In Los Angeles, for example, more than half of Lyft drivers are in the creative industry, and 30% of San Francisco Lyft drivers are entrepreneurs who use the service to network, he said.

"The idea wasn’t for every driver to be doing it full time," he added. "The vision is for every car on the road to be a Lyft car."  

TechCrunch reported on Monday that Lyft is targeting nearly $1.2 billion in gross revenue this year and expects to more than double that in 2016, when it will reach profitability. Green declined to comment on those numbers during his keynote, but he said the company is already profitable in most of its top markets, which include San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

However, Uber is still bigger than Lyft. The latter operates in 65 US cities, a quarter of the cities that Uber is in. Uber has also entered dozens of international cities, while Lyft has yet to do so.

Lyft is plotting its first international expansion this year, Green said, declining to name where that will be. Besides Uber, it will also have to compete against local transportation apps in regions such as India and China.

When asked if Lyft was concerned about falling behind its rivals abroad, Green said the company is closely watching its competitors’ mistakes and successes to learn from them.

"I don’t think [Uber’s] current international strategy is working," he said. "When we do go abroad, it won’t just be as a taxi service."

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