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Lyft CEO: I'm not just a customer, I'm a driver too

Logan Green, the ride-hailing service's co-founder and CEO, discusses his company's vision and his larger competition at the South by Southwest festival.

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Lyft CEO Logan Green (right) discusses ride-hailing with The Wall Street Journal's Doug Macmillan (left). Dara Kerr/CNET

AUSTIN, Texas -- Get in a Lyft car one day, and you might just find Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green behind the wheel.

On the days he drives his electric Nissan Leaf to work, he often switches on his Lyft app, a service that lets passengers hail rides from drivers using their own cars via a smartphone. The reason, he said, is so he can experience Lyft from drivers' point of view.

"The other day I picked somebody up and made $20 on my way into work," he said Monday here at the South by Southwest festival, which has brought together technorati, filmmakers and musicians. "Every dollar counts."

One of Lyft's goals is to be both more approachable and friendly than its larger competitor, Uber. Both do roughly the same thing: they help users connect with drivers, and they've both changed the way people in cities view taxis and limos. But Uber has taken more of a hands-off approach with both its passengers and its drivers.

Lyft's friendlier attitude has helped the company win friends where Uber hasn't, but it's still valued at a fraction of its larger competitor. Lyft is in about 25 percent of the cities where Uber operates, and has one-seventh the company's funding.

Still, Lyft hopes it can win with a fist-bump -- the signature greeting of Lyft drivers. One example was at the SXSW festival, for which Lyft beat out Uber as the official ride-hailing partner. Throughout the festival, which brings in more than 50,000 attendees, Lyft drivers trolled the city streets and the company sent promoters to local bars to pass out ride coupons. Green was also one of SXSW's keynote speakers and drew a crowd of about 4,000 people.

While on stage, wearing jeans with a black blazer and white button-up shirt, Green sought to differentiate Lyft from Uber. He said that while he thinks "Uber is a good car service," Lyft has a different vision for its business.

"I think their original motto was 'everybody's private driver,'" Green said. "Our vision for the world is making car ownership unnecessary. We never set out to make a better taxicab."

Green touted one of Lyft's newest features called Lyft Line, which is a carpool-like service that lets drivers pick up multiple passengers along a similar route. Since launching Lyft Line in San Francisco six months ago, Green said the feature now makes up more than 50 percent of all of its rides in the city. This was the first time the company revealed data on Lyft Line. One of Lyft's goals with its carpool feature is to decrease cars on the road, while also increasing rides for drivers and bringing down the price for passengers.

"Every dollar you knock off the price opens it up to a gigantic group of people," Green said.

CNET's Richard Nieva (@richardjnieva) and Dara Kerr (@darakerr) will be in Austin, Texas, for SXSW covering all things tech, geek culture and maybe even barbecue.