Lyft CEO: We Are Learning From Uber’s Global Expansion Problems

'I don't think their strategy is working,' Logan Green says at SXSW

In a South by Southwest keynote discussion today about the ride-sharing economy, Lyft CEO Logan Green said that when his brand goes global, it's going to do it after closely observing what front-running competitor Uber did wrong in Europe and Asia. 

"I don't think their current strategy is working," Green said, speaking in front of several hundred onlookers at the Austin Convention Center in Central Texas. "I think we are learning a lot right now."

Lyft will probably need a whole lot of competitive intelligence if it's going to meet the revenue goals that were leaked just before Green took the stage on Monday afternoon. TechCrunch reported that the ride-sharing player projected $1 billion in revenues this year and $2.7 billion in 2016. While Green deflected questions about the leaked document, such earnings targets clearly point to international expansion. 

"We [want] to shake up the world," proclaimed Green, while being interviewed by The Wall Street Journal reporter Doug MacMillan in an event dubbed "Fixing Transportation with Humanity and Technology."

While it's not shocking that Green's team has tracked Uber's problems in making a dent in other countries—which Green said was "an undereported story"—his comments provided a couple glimpses into Lyft's worldwide intentions. For one, he squelched any speculation that his tech-based company would spend all of its $530 million in new funding on catching up with Uber in the United States, where it operates in 65 cities.

Secondly, when asked "which countries next?" Green responded by referring to Alibaba of China's investment in Lyft. Entrenched local players and government regulations—the same issues keeping Uber from gaining more than single-digit market share in many non-U.S. nations—would make Asia a tough market to enter.

"As we go international, we look to add something unique to the market," the Lyft chief said. "It won't be just as a taxi service."

He later added, "We want to create a new form of transportation…. Every dollar you knock off the price opens it up to this gigantic market of people."

Green said that his company was profitable in "mature markets"—where Lyft has had a presence for well over a year—such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. It's definitely in a hot space. Last summer, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated the sharing economy would balloon to $325 billion in the next decade. Green told Adweek a few weeks ago that Lyft's revenue this January was five times greater than a year prior; it has expanded from 20 markets to 65 in that same time. Lyft has other obstacles, namely competitors such as Hailo, RelayRides and Flywheel in addition to Uber.

But more generally, during his hour-long talk on Monday, Green riffed on the economic sense that ride-sharing apps can make for consumers. 

"The other day, I picked somebody up and made $20 on my way into work," he said. 

Yes, Green is an occasional Lyft driver—but he didn't put on airs that it was part of his regular schedule. Lastly, on that note, he revealed that most of his hundreds and thousands of drivers were very much part-timers. 

"Our average driver [logs] 15 hours a week," he said. 

And here at SXSW, many Lyft drivers in town motored their way from locations like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio to cash in on the festival's attendees. 

Said one driver from Houston today: "I am not exactly sure where I am going right now, to be honest."

Though, it sounds like Green knows where he's going with privately held Lyft—beyond U.S. borders sometime soon.