5 Things Cofounder John Zimmer Wants St. Louis to Know About Lyft

Tech Crunch on Flickr
John Zimmer, cofounder at Lyft.
Sure, Lyft isn't following the rules for ride-for-hire businesses in St. Louis.

And why should they, asks the company's cofounder, John Zimmer. The rules were designed for taxis and car services, whereas he created Lyft to be something else entirely -- a peer-to-peer marketplace where anyone with a car can find, verify, pick up, drop off and get paid by passengers all on the company's Facebook-integrated app.

"It is new, what we're doing is new," Zimmer tells Daily RFT. So why should Lyft abide by rules written in the days when you hailed a cab off the street with a strong whistle? "Those were written decades ago, when this wasn't possible."

See also: As Lyft Fights Back in St. Louis, Rival App Uber Gets Support from Mayor Slay

Tech Crunch on Flickr, cropped
Lyft co-founders John Zimmer (L) and Logan Green fist bump.
St. Louis officials don't seem to agree with Zimmer's "the-rules-don't-apply-to-me" take on his growing business. A judge has ordered Lyft to stop operating in the city and county, and Mayor Francis Slay is throwing his weight behind Uber, a rival app-based ride business that wants to move into the St. Louis market.

What's the problem? It all comes down to keeping drivers and passengers safe. An Uber driver is charged with running over and killing a six-year-old girl on New Year's Eve while waiting for a fare.

"This is about safety," Bob Olandi, the deputy director of the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission, told Daily RFT on the night Lyft launched and police cited a Lyft driver for operating without a proper license. "We have nothing against Lyft, but there's a process here. There's a state law that says there's a process here."

Charles Billings, a lawyer for the taxicab commission, put it even simpler: "This is flying an airplane without the FAA."

The taxicab commission recently changed some of its rules to create room for app-based, car-dispatching businesses. Carmel, a New York-based company, was the first ride-hailing app to go live in St. Louis, albeit without any fanfare.

But Zimmer says Lyft's business model is more collaborative and flexible than the new license allows for. Lyft drivers are typically students, artists and entrepreneurs selling an underused resource (the empty seats in their cars) to tech-savvy passengers looking for a cheaper alternative to taxis via an online marketplace.

And to Zimmer, that means St. Louis' code of laws governing taxis and ride-hailing apps just doesn't apply to Lyft.

"That's not our model, that's not how this operates," Zimmer says. "We're not trying to be difficult."

So if he's not trying to be difficult, what exactly is Zimmer trying to be? We had to ask.

Click to the next page for the five big takeaways from Daily RFT's conversation with John Zimmer, the cofounder of Lyft:

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
Douglas Dial
Douglas Dial

If you got a text, you probably downloaded the app.

Anna Parker
Anna Parker

Yes almost became a driver. Backed out last minute.

jaco1175 topcommenter

I cannot fucking stand people like this guy. "What we are doing is different, the rules don't apply to us, we are hipster douchbags, radical dude!" Fuck him and the rest of the little twerps who think that riding around with some underpaid douche with a pink mustache on his car is so fucking groundbreaking while they send their money out of town to cockhead venture capitalists in California. Fucking idiots.


Miss Toler, please ask Mr Zimmer this simple question "Where would an injured Lyft rider FIRST try to collect a claim...with the driver's personal car insurance or against Lyft's $1M Excess Liability Policy?" And please post the answer, if you can get a straight answer, in an update. Thank you.

Iva Marie Gibbs
Iva Marie Gibbs

Above are the MTC board. Now look up how many of these people own, have family that own, or have a "personal interest" in a stl taxi company... It's interesting. List taken from MTC website.

Iva Marie Gibbs
Iva Marie Gibbs

Louis P. Hamilton - Chairman Dave McNutt - Vice Chairman of Operations W. Thomas Reeves - Vice Chairman of Finance Eyasu Asfaw Vincent Bennett Adebabay Gidey Basil Rudawsky Larry Satz J. Kim Tucci


Napster was a peer-to-peer sharing;

Enron had a disdain for regulation;

Subprime mortgage lenders took advantage of the lack of regulation enforcement and deregulation and help the bubble to burst;

"Corporate social mobilization" and you want to call it "community powered"? really?

Who is getting richer your venture capital investors or the struggling underemployed or unemployed Lyft driver? Lyft, you skimp on insurance by making it contingent not primary, and make it hard to see and impossible to use. You sucked the value of the drivers cars and you made them believe they made an unbelievable hourly rate while risking it all, for lyft to make a profit.

James R Johnson
James R Johnson

Lyft and Uber are worlds apart in what they provide to the consumers one is luxury and you pay dearly for it and the other is convenience at an appropriate cost. The Taxi commission in St. Louis serves only to protect business and prohibit free market competition. IT DOES NOT PROTECT CONSUMERS!!! If it did it would have had more than 75% of its' workforce working on New Years Eve of 2014. The taxi services that currently reside in St. Louis are an embarrassment to the entire metro area. I've used taxis all over the world, as well as Uber and 'Am familiar with Lyft and by far the shadiest, dirtiest, and most dangerous I've come across are the taxis here in St. Louis.


How exactly is Uber planning on working with the Taxi Commission? Are riders only going to be able to get rides from existing taxis like with Carmel? City officials seem to think that this is all about wanting to hail a taxi from your smartphone and it's not. 

Now Trending

St. Louis Concert Tickets

From the Vault