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Lyft co-founder John Zimmer on why nice guys don't always finish last

John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft Inc.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft Inc.

Uber may be navigating a series of missteps, but don't expect the leaders of its biggest competitor to rejoice in the company's struggles.

"There's nothing to celebrate in this situation," Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer tells The New York Times. "But it does shine a light on the importance of values and ethics."

A Lyft car drives along Powell Street in San Francisco, California.
Getty Images
A Lyft car drives along Powell Street in San Francisco, California.

Zimmer, who co-founded Lyft in 2012 with Logan Green, makes it clear that bashing the competition to get ahead is by no means a part of their game plan for growth. In fact, the two leaders have leaned hard on a "nice guy" strategy for leading their company, despite facing criticism about the need to be more aggressive.

"For a while there was this idea that we are treating people well, and we are going to get beaten by a competitor that is more aggressive," Zimmer told the Financial Times. "There was a misunderstanding about those values [not being] tied to building a great business, which they are."

Blogger Eric Barker dedicated a whole chapter in his recently released book, "Barking Up the Wrong Tree," to exploring whether nice guys do, in fact, finish last.

The Lyft Inc. logo is seen as John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft Inc.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Lyft Inc. logo is seen as John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft Inc.

Barker makes the case that jerks are sometimes better at their jobs than the nice guys, because they're often more focused on gaining power, but he makes it clear that being a jerk likely won't get you far in business.

"Remember, bad behavior is strong in the short-term, but good behavior wins over in the long-term," writes Barker.

Lyft might have positioned itself as the industry's nice guy, but it has no intention of finishing last. CBS reports that in 2016, Lyft provided more than 162 million rides to customers, three times more than in 2015. In 2017, the company added service in 150 U.S. markets, leading to 142 percent growth.

In January, amidst the #DeleteUber controversy, Lyft announced that it would be donating $1 million over the next four years to the American Civil Liberties Union to help fight President Trump's proposed travel ban.

In March, Zimmer announced via Twitter that the company will also be launching a program called Round Up & Donate, through which riders can opt to have their fare automatically rounded up to the next dollar. Proceeds will go toward "issues impacting everyone everywhere, from climate change to the pursuit of equality."

"Do nice guys finish last?" Barker writes. "Yes. But they also finish first."

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