Lyft Creating A Shark Tank-Like Experience For Its Drivers (In A Good Way)

Incredible ideas have come from ride-hail. Along with Uber-for-everything, there’s nearly every service and tool to improve the workaday lives of all the gigmasters hustling for all of those conveniences that can now be booked with a swipe on a phone.

On-demand dog-walkers (Wag!Rover), car washers (Spiffy), food and convenience store runners (Postmates), restaurant-to-your-home deliverers (DoorDash), kiddie carpool alternatives (KangoHopSkipDriveZūm), and of course ride-hail drivers want to earn more, save money on gas, find parking, shield themselves from liability, identify areas with the most demand, avoid accidents as they go from one client-of-the-moment to the next, get paid for a day’s work as soon as possible and take advice from other drivers about how to do all of the above.

Fortunate for this growing class of microlaborers, all of those functions exist via apps, websites, hardware and even center console-strapped vending machines. Uber drivers can make their backseats into tiny convenience stores for a captive (and hopefully hungry) clientele and take a percentage on sales.


Some ideas to maximize earnings on the road, like Mystro’s automated toggling between apps for the multigiggers, Vugo’s geotargeted backseat digital advertising on a tablet, and The Rideshare Guy’s profitable driving consultancy-on-a-blog, are the brainchildren of now-funded entrepreneurs who were once ride-hail drivers.

Even where they don’t have an idea specifically for the gig economy, many ride-hail drivers choose to live as contractors for the flexibility to pursue their bold ideas on their own time. That’s where Lyft‘s latest initiative comes in.

The pink mustachioed powerhouse positioning itself as the community-oriented total mobility solution opened a pitch competition to its drivers. Right now Lyft Pitch isn’t culling talent from its own labor pool to launch mobility concepts for integration with its own services. Not yet.  

Lyft Marketing Manager Kate Glantz, who conceived of the contest in July 2017, said, “We’re agnostic to their ideas. They don’t even need to be fully-fledged businesses. What really struck us from [our internal survey last year] is that nearly one in five drivers, or 18%, is an entrepreneur.”

Glantz, herself a former entrepreneur who’s been through the incubator experience, is in charge of the mid-Atlantic region. That is, she is outside the tech world where “we all know that pitch competitions happen every day. But in the non-tech world, this is a pretty new notion.” She expects to bring opportunity to people who would otherwise never access the exposure or the mentorship the competition will provide.

It’s part of a larger effort by Lyft to secure opportunity for drivers, rather than compete in the modern mobility niche over maximum convenience and minimum price for customers. “So much of our marketing efforts tend to focus on passengers and we’ve really been, as a company, embracing marketing on both sides,” Glantz said. “What’s something that has the impact to affect tens of thousands?”

Lyft drivers must apply for the Shark Tank-esque pitch slam by Oct. 21. If you’re not a current Lyft driver and just need a little seed cash, you can still apply to become a driver in order to enter the competition as long as your new driver application is approved before Lyft Pitch applications close.

Applicants from either camp will submit an application and elevator pitch before eight finalists are announced Nov. 1. Those finalists will then go on to Washington, D.C. as a group of eight. After a pitch clinic, they’ll present their ideas to the leadership of Lyft, Intuit, and General Assembly. External partners — not Lyft — will act as mentors. They’ll also get professional headshots. First and second place earn  $15,000 and $10,000 respectively. The audience favorite will take $5,000. All finalists will get credits from General Assembly.