At Lyft Inc., they were called “the O.G.”
This iteration of an original gang comprised the first 50 or so drivers who took a chance on what may then have sounded like a crazy concept.
Now, as Lyft and rival Uber Technologies Inc. gear up for the transition from startup to public company, both are considering giving some of their loyal drivers a chance to buy stock in their initial public offerings, the Wall Street Journal has reported.
Lyft filed its prospectus for an initial public offering on Friday. Both companies have revealed that they plan to go public this year.
In San Francisco, the drivers who helped build these ride-sharing empires include a former personal caregiver, a former security guard and a former Credit Suisse investment banker.
The companies haven’t said how they’d select the lucky drivers, but they likely would focus on longtime, active drivers, and, at Lyft, the plan is to award drivers who have logged at least 10,000 rides, according to the report. Lyft and Uber have not responded to MarketWatch requests for comment.
Carlo Garibay was a private caregiver in Silicon Valley in 2012 when he first heard of Lyft. He had a 2-year-old son and figured he could use the flexible hours. At the time, there were no more than 20 employees at Lyft, and co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer interviewed potential drivers, Garibay said.
“Zimmer interviewed me,” Garibay said. “At first I thought it was very sketchy, because I found the ad on Craigslist, and it said something like ‘control your hours and get paid every week,’ ” said Garibay, who lives in Hercules, Calif., with his wife and now two children and drives a hybrid 2019 Acura MDX.
The driver estimates he has given more than 20,000 Lyft and Uber rides (he started driving for Uber, too, in 2013). If given a chance, he would hold on to his shares, rather than cash them out, he said. “I’d have the shares for both companies as a security blanket long term,” he said. “Cash on hand is easy to spend.”
Deco Carter was a security guard in the Mission District in San Francisco in 2013 when he decided on a career change. A friend had told him about Lyft.
“I had never heard of a startup before,” Carter said. “At the time, it wasn’t a term you heard very much.” He donned a suit for his interview, only to arrive at a small office that Lyft shared with another startup and notice that everyone was dressed in jeans and T-shirts.
“I didn’t know if that was a company, or just some people trying to get something going,” Carter said. “I was like, what’s going on?” He and other candidates “were looking at each other, saying, ‘Have you heard of this?’ ”
The company gave him a giant pink mustache — Lyft’s symbol at the time — along with a bag of candy for passengers and a phone charger, said Carter, a San Francisco resident who is regularly called a “Lyft legend” by fellow drivers and drives a hip-hop-themed 2006 Toyota Scion XB for Lyft and Lyft alone.
“I’d definitely go for the shares, if I had that choice, [and] put it away for the kids,” Carter said. It’s paycheck-to-paycheck for his family, and Carter does not have much experience or interest in the stock market. “That’s not my area at all.”
His wheelhouse, he said, is creating a “fun learning atmosphere” about hip hop for his passengers to enjoy on his rides.
Keith Maddock, a self-described “car guy to the core,” started driving for Lyft, and shortly after for Uber, in 2013.
He had worked for Credit Suisse CS, +0.41% CSGN, +0.20%
in San Francisco, and enjoyed the technical aspects of his investment-banking job but past his associate years was finding the sales role was not something he’d enjoy long term. He left his job of four years “with a nice little buffer.”
“After two weeks of watching Netflix, I was bored, and thinking I’ve got to do something,” he said. “I thought, why not do the pink-mustache thing for a couple of weeks?” He figured he’d meet people he would never meet otherwise, make some beer money and drive cars. At his most active, he drove 80 hours a week. “It was a lot of hustle,” he said.
Maddock, who lives in San Francisco, still uses the Lyft and Uber apps occasionally, but mostly to fill the gaps in his own limousine service, he said.
“It’s going to be a safe bet,” he said of the IPOs. Even if a driver needs the money immediately, they could hold on to half of it for a few weeks or months, sell it at a profit, and keep the other half as a long-term investment, Maddock said.
Access to the IPOs for drivers would be huge — a way to get in on a hot new stock-market issue without having to be “a friend of Frank,” Maddock said, alluding to Frank Quattrone, the prominent Silicon Valley banker who took public Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, +1.95%
, Cisco Systems Inc. CSCO, -0.70%
and other heavyweights in the 1990s tech boom. Quattrone was sidelined by a conviction for obstruction of justice, later overturned, in connection with an investigation into how Credit Suisse First Boston allocated IPO shares.
With so many drivers, the amount they can earn has dwindled. The hours can still be grueling. But all three men said they appreciated what Lyft and Uber may do for some of them.
“It’s appreciation for people like me who put the company on the map,” Carter, the former security guard, said. “We made this company.”