This article originally appeared on March 1, 2019 by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Ride-hailing startup Lyft filed for an initial public offering Friday morning, a move that puts the San Francisco company ahead of hometown rival Uber in a closely watched race to Wall Street.
The company had 1.9 million drivers and 30.7 million riders last year, according to its filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the first required disclosure for a sale of stock to the general public.
Lyft recorded $8.1 billion in fares and other payments in 2018 — most of which it paid out to drivers and others. The company doubled its revenue — mostly the commissions it takes on rides — last year to reach $2.2 billion.
Lyft also recorded a loss of $911.3 million last year.
The company’s losses have been climbing over the years, but that isn’t unusual for a company focused on rapid growth, according to Anil Persad, director of technical accounting and transaction services at MorganFranklin Consulting.
“I would expect to see them continue to have losses as the years go by; it may eventually taper down,” Persad said. “But I think any time you think about these early-stage companies and they’re in growth mode, they’re very much willing to make the investments in their business.”
The company also noted that it faced “intense competition” in the ride-hailing industry.
Lyft named Uber, Gett and Via as its main competitors in the market. Jump, which is owned by Uber, Lime and Bird are its main competition in the bike- and scooter-rental market, according to the filing. Lyft said other companies, such as Alphabet’s Waymo and Apple, are investing in autonomous driving technology and could compete with Lyft in the future.
Lyft plans two classes of stock, which gives more voting power to the company’s co-founders, Logan Green and John Zimmer. Green is Lyft’s CEO and Zimmer is president and vice chairman of the board
“(It’s) not as bad as Snap, where the new investors had zero votes per share,” said Matt Kennedy, a senior IPO market strategist at Renaissance Capital, a provider of institutional IPO research.
In Lyft’s case, Green and Zimmer would get 20 votes per share, while new investors would get one vote.
“The risk is that if these co-founders have missteps or a vision that doesn’t align with investors’ interests, then public investors have no recourse,” Kennedy said. The co-founders “are able to control the board, or at least have a highly outsized vote.”
Uber also is expected to go public this year. Lyft’s filing on Friday gives Uber significant insight into Lyft’s operations, Kennedy said, but it also gives itself plenty of attention as the first tech unicorn since October and the first “decacorn” — a private company valued by investors at more than $10 billion — in about a year to file for an IPO. Lyft was last valued at $15 billion.
“If they’d waited until Uber had gone public I think they would have gotten a lot of attention, but … it would’ve been like a smaller Uber,” Kennedy said. “But I think by going first I think every IPO investor is going to be looking at this company and (Lyft) can set the narrative … before Uber has anything to say about it.”
Lyft did not respond to a request for comment.