Lyft co-founder John Zimmer didn't take a salary for three years


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John Zimmer, Lyft co-founder spoke out in a podcast of "Success: How I Did It" telling viewers how he succeeded together with his co-founder of Lyft Logan Green to overcome many of the potholes and detours that happen with new ventures.

Speaking to Alyson Shontell, Business Insider U.S. Editor-in-Chief. Zimmer unfolded the story of how they met back in 2007 after Zimmer read a post that Green had posted in a mutual friends page in Facebook. In his post, Green told the readers about Green's latest start-up called "Zimrides" which was the result of a trip Green had taken to Zimbabwe and had seen how people would like rideshare all the time, out of necessity. Zimmer, who was working full-time at Lehmann Brothers in NY wanted to learn more about the company, so he asked his friend to connect him with Green. Zimmers friend arranged the meeting, and Zimmer and Green decided to start a new venture together.

(left to right) Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer

Battle between Uber and Lyft

The two young entrepreneurs relocated to Silicon Valley, and both decided not to take any salaries out of the company, which continued for the first three years. They relied on their own resources and ate Trader Joe's microwaveable meals. Zimmer stated that he had saved some money during his work at Lehman Brothers, so when he left the comfort of his day job for the uncertainty of his new venture he had to realign the budget accordingly. They moved into an apartment together and worked from home, calling their place the "Apartfice." Zimmer had to sleep on the couch for the first six months, after which his best friend suggested he move into his parent's house.

Zimride started out as a focused niche carpool service for college students when they went back home during their breaks; it helped students earn extra income. The model allowed students to earn anywhere between $20 to $30 selling the use of up to 3 seats, that way a college student driving home could earn $60, which would cover the ride costs and make you some money rather the losing money maintaining a car by yourself for yourself.

In 2012 Zimride had grown to thousands of drivers in 150 universities and some companies that participated in the model. Both Green and Zimmer felt that they had not scratched the surface of the company's potential, so they decided to expand their model and build a dedicated app. They did a brainstorming session and asked each other 'What if we were starting Zimride over today? What would it look like?' They also looked at Uber, which was only an UberBlack and Limo service at that time, and then asked "Well, what if we could increase the frequency of use? Use a smartphone?" They employed two engineers that developed the new app and launched the new "Lyft" in 2012.

The company has grown steadily, raising solid investment from private sources. The two co-founders progress by a step by step basis, some mistake the nice guy approach to weakness in the face of Uber's more aggressive approach. Zimmer claims that many misunderstood their steady progress for incapability to meet the competition head-on, however, the company has grown to an $11 billion giant and is continuing to advance without raking in the adverse media coverage and is far from generating the same levels of loss and waste that were part and parcel of Uber's approach to business.


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