MarketWatch interview: New Lyft CEO wants to get people out of the house again


Lyft Inc.’s incoming Chief Executive David Risher looks at the ride-hailing company’s competition with Uber Technologies Inc. as a way to keep both companies “honest and focused,” he said in an interview with MarketWatch on Monday.

“There’s lots of two-service dynamics, or market dynamics, like Coke and Pepsi, or the Nasdaq and the [New York Stock Exchange],” Risher said. “You want that level of competition.”

Lyft LYFT, -2.74%, which has lost $2.2 billion, or about a third, of its market capitalization since it reported earnings last month, announced Monday that board director Risher will take over as CEO of the struggling company. He will replace company co-founder Logan Green, who will become chairman of the board.

Lyft is competing with much larger rival Uber UBER, -0.42%, which has gained ride-hailing market share in recent years at the expense of Lyft, according to YipitData, which says Uber now has about 74% of U.S. market share vs. Lyft’s 26%. Risher declined to say much about how he would differentiate himself from the outgoing CEO, but he indicated that Lyft will not attempt to compete with Uber in other services, such as delivery.

“I don’t want to get in a car with someone that’s just delivered a pizza,” he said.

“At some point, I don’t think of this as just an Uber battle,” he said. “It’s a battle against staying at home. How do we get people out? How do we get them playing and working together?”

Lyft’s new top executive was for the past 13 years CEO of Worldreader, a nonprofit that focuses on children’s literacy through digital reading. Risher said because of that, he’s familiar with “doing more with less… you have to be more efficient.”

Risher will receive a signing bonus of $3.25 million and have an annual salary of $725,000, according to Lyft’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday. He confirmed to MarketWatch that he intends to donate $3 million of that signing bonus to Worldreader.

“I told the board it’s very important to me that Worldreader become stronger instead of becoming weaker,” Risher said.

Risher is also active in efforts to encourage wealthy philanthropists to give away their money faster. He and his wife, Jennifer Risher, launched a group called Half My DAF in 2020 that aims to move money out of donor-advised funds and into the hands of working charities more quickly.

“My wife and I do that on the side,” Risher said. “For a long time, I’ve been a purpose-driven leader. But Lyft is my No. 1 focus.”

Before leading Worldreader, Risher was an early employee of Inc. AMZN, -0.09%, becoming its first head of product and head of U.S. retail, as well as a general manager at Microsoft Corp. MSFT, -1.49%. He said that experience gives him an “understanding of competition.”

He said Lyft will compete by focusing on customers and drivers, such as making sure drivers are picking up customers on time. He said there won’t be much difference in the company’s stance on treating drivers as independent contractors when he takes over.

Lyft, like Uber, has been under pressure from investors to become profitable. The way to get there is through making sure to address it from both the “cost side and the volume side,” Risher said.

Risher officially takes the helm on April 17. Like Green, co-founder and President John Zimmer also will relinquish a role in day-to-day operations, but will continue as vice chair of the board.

MarketWatch staff writer Leslie Albrecht contributed to this article.

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