by Stella Fayman on June 3, 2013
One of my favorite startups, GiveForward, has a great motto: Create Unexpected Joy. It’s something the company lives by with every customer interaction and product innovation.
A new arrival to Chicago does just that: Lyft. I was introduced to Lyft by a friend from SF, he mentioned the service was launching in Chicago and looking for early adopters. The app lets you request a driver from wherever you are in the city. The catch is that Lyft drivers are all regular people, not professional taxi cab drivers. They pick you up in their cars, which are marked by Lyft’s signature fuzzy pink moustache on the grill. The app tells you the driver’s name, shares a picture of the driver, as well as a photo of the car so you know what it looks like. Similar to Uber, you can follow drivers on a map to know how close they are. Potential Lyft drivers are all thoroughly screened with background checks, driving record checks, and regular car inspections.
After a ride is given, both passenger and drive rate each other. A “suggested donation” including tip pops up on the screen so you can pay for your ride. So far, the rides have been about 25-30% cheaper than a cab.
I am a self professed Lyft addict. I’ve taken lyft about 10 times in the last couple of weeks, shirking the unpleasant experience of hailing a cab, dealing with rude drivers, and not knowing whether they are a good driver. Lyft “creates unexpected joy” with every interaction because users have to have a certain open, fun personality: I’ve met Lyft drivers who are stonemasons, students making money while on summer break, wedding photographers, entrepreneurs, massage therapists…even a trader! (he gets bored just sitting in front of a computer screen all day). They are all chatty and down to earth. When you get into a Lyft, you know something special is happening, a relationship is being formed.
Not only do you feel good using the app because it’s cheaper (oh yeah) but you are also helping empower the local community and entrepreneurs within who use Lyft as a means to further their lives. They don’t view Lyft as a job the way cabbies do, they view it as a joy. They are not disgruntled, they are genuine.
I’ve told all of my friends about Lyft, and even the most skeptical are converted as soon as they try it. My fiance, a typically tough New Yorker, was extremely skeptical about its safety before he tried it. On one of our rides, the driver ended up bonding with him over a shared boss at a previous job. He was converted on the spot.
We look forward to taking Lyft because of the element of surprise: You never know what kind of car, person, or experience you’re going to have, but you know it will be positive.
(Disclaimer: Lyft is sponsoring our next Entrepreneurs Unpluggd event. But that’s ok because we hand pick sponsors to make sure they are companies we use and recommend to our audience because they are awesome).