Google parent company leads $1 billion investment in Lyft
Ride-sharing firm now valued at $11 billion
SAN FRANCISCO -- Google parent company Alphabet Inc.’s investment arm, CapitalG, led a $1 billion investment in Lyft Inc. that values the ride-sharing startup at $11 billion, the ride-sharing startup said.
The funding marks a major shift in Alphabet’s allegiances away from Uber Technologies Inc., and suggests a tighter pairing of its Waymo autonomous vehicle technology with Lyft’s transportation network. David Lawee, a partner at CapitalG, will join Lyft’s board.
The cash infusion helps Lyft compete with Uber, which has been reeling from a series of scandals and executive turnover in 2017. Bloomberg previously reported Alphabet was considering a $1 billion investment. The internet giant was a major Uber backer, but the companies have clashed in court over autonomous vehicle technology this year.
General Motors invested $500 million into Lyft in early 2016.
Lyft has gained market share in the U.S., the only country where it operates, as Uber suffered from self-inflicted wounds, including a protest over the company’s ties to the Trump administration. Lyft seized the moment, donating to the American Civil Liberties Union and issuing a string of progressive political statements.
Lyft has flirted with expanding abroad. The new money may go into a global expansion or doubling down on the U.S. Earlier this month, Lyft completed its 500 millionth ride and the service is now available to 95 percent of the U.S. population, up from 54 percent at the beginning of the year, the company said on Thursday.
Bad news for Uber
The funding is bad news for Uber, which is trying to finalize a major investment from SoftBank Group Corp. Even if the SoftBank deal goes through as expected, a well-financed Lyft is a blow for new Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. On paper, Uber remains the far more valuable company. It was last valued at nearly $70 billion.
Over the past few years, Uber and Lyft have poured money into subsidies and other short-term stimulants of market share growth. Both companies have looked for more sustainable means of outmaneuvering each other. The new financing may reignite the subsidy wars or it could usher in a new era of responsible, albeit well-funded, competition.
GV, another Alphabet investment arm focused on venture capital, co-led a more than $250 million investment in Uber in 2013. David Drummond, Alphabet’s chief legal officer, took a board seat. But the relationship fractured as Uber started working on self-driving cars in competition with Waymo. Alphabet sued Uber for stealing its autonomous vehicle trade secrets in a highly publicized case set to go to court in December.
There’s a long history of technology companies investing in the next generation of upstarts. SoftBank invested in Alibaba. Microsoft Corp. invested in Facebook Inc. Those startups turned into the dominant players in their industries and countries. Ride-hailing supremacy in the U.S. is still up for grabs, with Alphabet placing its latest bet on Lyft, while SoftBank backs Uber.
Uber mulled acquiring Lyft back in 2014. Uber executives scoffed privately that Lyft was only worth $2 billion in 2016. But this year, Lyft has closed the valuation and market-share gap.
Both companies are betting the ride-hailing market will continue to expand dramatically and move beyond the largest cities by weaving itself into the transportation fabric of America’s heartland. Lyft has also flirted with international expansion, while Uber already operates in more than 70 countries.
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