For much of its history, Lyft has been viewed as something of an underdog in its industry. The successful ride-sharing platform may have millions of users, but it’s still a relatively small company compared to its primary rival, Uber. In an effort to remain competitive, the company announced it is going public this year. According to CNN Business, it hopes to raise more than $2 billion in its upcoming IPO.
Lyft’s two co-founders, CEO Logan Green and president John Zimmer, have set a desired price range for the company’s stock that could value the company at about $20 billion total. This is an ambitious goal that would translate to a major payday for Green and Zimmer, and it would also have far-reaching implications for the tech landscape in 2019. Lyft is the first in a series of “unicorn” startups worth $1 billion plus that are going public this year (Airbnb, Slack, Pinterest, and Postmates are also in that mix) and the price Green and Zimmer fetch could set the market for the others.
“The unicorns of today have been staying private for much longer than the norm because of the availability of capital from sovereign wealth funds and big companies like Fidelity,” London Business School professor John Mullins told CNN. “But at some point, you have to go public. Investors want a return. That’s why we’re seeing this rash of impending IPOs.”
Lyft’s IPO is sure to be influential, but it’s unclear how well the company will actually do. Experts have speculated that Lyft may have trouble justifying the claim that it’s worth $20 billion. Based on the current levels of private investment in the company, it appears that a more reasonable valuation would be around $15 billion. The Lyft service has a thriving user base and is bringing in lots of revenue, but it’s currently hemorrhaging money. The company’s total losses reached $911.3 million in 2018.
Losses are common for new startups—even great ones. CNN noted that Amazon first went public in 1997 and didn’t record its first profit until four years later. So for investors now, the question is: Which will Lyft be? The next startup success story like Amazon? Or the next tech industry bust like Pets.com? Either way, the whole tech world will be watching.
“The Lyft IPO will be important not just on the day of offering, but in the months following, to see how it does,” Mullins said. “The IPO window is fragile. It opens and closes quickly.”