Exactly five years ago – Lyft was launched in the summer of 2012. The company has been extremely successful, growing quickly and continuing to gain popularity. Today SACC-SF/SV had the honor of meeting Sebastian Brännström, Engineering manager at Lyft, and one of Lyft’s first employees.
When asked about the popularity that Lyft has gained in recent years, Brännström said,
”It is like taking care of your own kitten. You don’t see it grow yourself, but from the outside you see how big it has become.”
Sebastian is born and raised in Stockholm, with a M.Sc. in Engineering Physics from Kungliga tekniska högskolan. After working at Ericsson, HiQ Data as software developer, and at Symbian Foundation as a release manager he moved to San Francisco in 2011 and started to work on Zimride, which later became Lyft.
“I had friends in common with the founders, and with some luck I got in contact with Logan Green, the co-founder and CEO of Lyft in the spring of 2011. At this time, the company had a different name, and was a start-up working with classic car pools and with an unclear future.”
Sebastian is the ninth employee at Lyft, and today the company employs about 2000.
Lyft are only located in the United Stated, and are biggest here in California, where San Francisco and Los Angeles are the biggest. Because Sebastian has seen the development of the company, SACC-SF/SV was interested to know a bit more about Lyft’s evolution.
”The success story started off with the combination of being in the right place at the right time. It would be impossible to start Lyft today. The market was free of competition in 2012, as Uber had not started Uber X yet. The capital and the circumstances were totally right.”
Sebastian continued to explain that people are taking it for granted that a car ride is just a key press away, even if the idea is only five years old.
Lyft is very convenient, the average wait time was around 4 minutes. It could be a great way to meet new friends, together with great prices and legendary perks.
Lyft helps people to share rides with coworkers, friends, classmates when going in the same direction. The company’s ridesharing focuses mostly on university and corporate communities and was founded in San Francisco where it is based. The service is built on an app, where both the drivers and the passenger can give ratings and most importantly where the drivers do not need a taxi license to drive.
Lyft can be found all around the United States. “There are maybe 5 states we are not located in today, and the reason why they do not have the service there is for legal reasons.”
It is easy to compare Lyft and Uber, and a lot of people use both services. We asked Sebastian to tell us what separates the two companies.
With a smile Sebastian explains that he might not be the best spokesperson because of his position. But from the beginning Lyft started to drive private persons, while Uber started with limousines. “Nowdays, here in San Francisco we are equally large. A lot of people drive both Lyft and Uber. The main reason is the financial incentive where the drivers can get bonuses from both companies. We cannot do anything about this because our driver’s are not employees, but instead private contractors.” Lyft has different teams that work with different incentives to motivate the drivers with better values, different programs and more money.
”From the beginning our plan was to reach out to a more female target group. With a logo shiny pink this would differentiate us from Uber.”
Sebastian has occupied different roles since he started with the company. He is currently working with self-driving cars. Sebastian explained, ”This will definitely happen within 10 years, everyone agrees about that. The question is if it will happen within 5 years.”
Sebastian continued to explain his thoughts on self-driving cars, ”There is no doubt that self-driving cars are the future and this will change cities. For example, there will be no need for parking lots, and people will not necessarily own cars for much longer. I think the model will shift to a month to month rental.” Before this can take place, there are still many technical problems to solve, and also legal issues to consider. Even if self-driving cars are much safer, no one will accept if a computer kills a passenger due to technical error, Sebastian explains.
We thank Sebastian for sharing his inspiration and look forward to experiencing the fruits of his labor in the years to come!