- Thomson Reuters
- Lyft cofounder John Zimmer originally conceived of Lyft in college, thinking about what type of infrastructure would be next in cities. Today, Lyft is worth $11 billion. On an episode of Business Insider podcast “Success! How I Did It,” Zimmer said an entrepreneur who wants to start the next billion-dollar unicorn should think beyond valuation, and more about what needs to be better in the world.
The seed for ride-hailing service Lyft was planted in cofounder John Zimmer’s brain about a decade ago. Zimmer was a senior at Cornell University and he was taking a class called Green Cities.
On an episode of Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” Zimmer told Business Insider US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell how the class inspired him.
According to Zimmer, the professor explained that the infrastructures built in cities years ago can’t accommodate the current population density. Zimmer said he remembers looking at images of canal and railroad lines and thinking, “What would be next?”
That is to say, the inspiration for Lyft – which, after an October fundraising round led by Alphabet’s investment arm, CapitalG, is valued at $11 billion – was at least partly Zimmer’s desire to make the world an easier place to live.
To other aspiring entrepreneurs – specifically those who want to start the next billion-dollar, multi-unicorn company – Zimmer said:
“I wouldn’t focus on the billion dollars or the term ‘unicorn.’ I would focus on why.
“Why do you want to do this? What do you actually want to do? What are you passionate about? What do you think needs to be better in the world?
“There are a lot of things that need improvement and that can be in the business arena, that can be in other arenas, but certainly in the business arena; there are big opportunities and we’ve got to focus our business success and metrics around the impact they’re having in the real world. And so I would push the next set of entrepreneurs to do that.”
Zimmer explained how being passionate about changing the world with your business makes the entrepreneurial experience easier:
“The best advice I can give to other entrepreneurs is to work on what you’re passionate about. If you’re working on something just to win or working on something just to make money, in all those tough moments, like raising a round when your competitor is trying to put you out of business with 30 times the amount of capital, it’s not going to be a genuine pitch. It’s going to be hard to overcome those moments.”
Zimmer’s insights recall something angel investor David Rose previously told Business Insider. Rose, who’s helped start over 100 companies, said he looks for entrepreneurs who are passionate about their business idea and want to make money.
“What I want is somebody who says, ‘I’m doing this because I love doing this. I love starting a company; I love the business that I’m doing; and I’m passionate about doing it,” Rose told Business Insider. “And yeah, by the way, I really hope this makes me a billion dollars.'”