Lyft’s big lift
America’s number two ride-hailing firm has benefited from Uber’s struggles
一家公司的坏消息常常是另一家公司的好运气。多年来，叫车应用Lyft都被它看似不可阻挡的对手优步(Uber)压制。优步开拓新市场，取得了近700亿美元的估值，成为美国历史上估值最高的私营科技公司。优步没有公开上市的股价，如果有的话，股价也一定会反映出公司近来的麻烦：被控侵犯知识产权，职场文化也受到调查。但据数据提供商TXN Solutions称，Lyft在美国的市场份额已从五个月前的18%升至现在的25%，这从侧面证实了优步的危机。 ONE firm’s bad news is often another’s good fortune.(写作句型) For years Lyft, an app that offers on-demand rides(词汇翻译), was outdone by its seemingly unstoppable rival, Uber, which zoomed into new markets and grabbed a near-$70bn valuation, the largest of any private American tech firm in history. Uber does not report a share price that would register(小词活用)its recent troubles, which include one investigation into alleged intellectual-property theft and another into its workplace culture. But that Lyft’s market share in America has risen from 18% five months ago to 25% now (according to TXN Solutions, a data provider) is a gauge(小词活用)of the larger firm’s crisis.
Lyft一点也不像典型的硅谷公司。和优步不同，它并不渴望统治全球，而是只在美国运营。它也没有特别把自己当回事。多年来，Lyft一直把毛茸茸的粉色大胡子贴在车前，方便乘客认出Lyft的司机。公司还鼓励乘客和司机碰一碰拳头并坐在前排(不过它现在放松了这套礼仪规范，以吸引更多顾客)。 Lyft is far from a typical Silicon Valley company. Unlike Uber, it does not lust for world domination and it operates only in America. Nor does it take itself especially seriously. For years it identified its drivers by pink, fuzzy moustaches fastened to the front of cars, and encouraged riders to fist-bump their drivers and sit in the front seat (though it has now relaxed this etiquette to attract more customers).
Lyft的创始人罗根·格林(Logan Green)和约翰·齐默(John Zimmer)把早期的重点放在善待司机上，比如乘客可以通过应用给司机小费。硅谷有很多人都把Lyft这种讨喜的行为视为会被优步打败的迹象(写作句型)。这两家公司不仅在争乘客，也在努力争取对方旗下的司机。2014年，优步的老板特拉维斯·卡兰尼克(Travis Kalanick)曾试图收购Lyft。 Its founders, Logan Green and John Zimmer, put an early emphasis on being nice to drivers, for example by allowing people to tip through the app. Many in Silicon Valley viewed such cuddly behaviour as a sign that Uber would trounce it. The two do not just compete for passengers; each also tries to woo(小词活用)the other’s drivers. In 2014 Uber’s boss, Travis Kalanick, attempted to buy Lyft.
但Lyft的文化却成为了一种资产。优步引发的争议，包括卡兰尼克某次被拍到痛骂一位司机，都为它的竞争对手提供了助力，尤其是在思想开明的美国西岸，那里的人要更不能忍受涉嫌性别歧视的品牌。在线调查公司Survey Monkey称，美国转用Lyft的人里有一半都说公司声誉是主因。 But Lyft’s culture has turned out to be an asset. Uber’s controversies, including Mr Kalanick being caught on video berating a driver, have helped its rival—particularly on America’s liberal-minded west coast, where people are more squeamish(写作句型)about using a brand associated with sexism. Half of those who have switched to Lyft in America say that company reputation was the chief reason, says Survey Monkey, an online-polling firm.
6月6日，优步称，性骚扰调查结果出炉后，公司已经解雇了20名员工(由前司法部长牵头的另一项更大范围的调查即将得出结果)。一位投资了优步的风险资本家说，被人看见自己上优步的车，他感到很难为情。4月，Lyft称已从投资人那里又融得6亿美元，公司估值达到75亿美元，比上一轮融资提高了约三分之一，看来这一切并非偶然。 On June 6th Uber said it had fired 20 employees after the conclusion of an investigation into sexual harassment (the result of a broader probe, led by a former attorney-general, is due soon). One venture capitalist who has backed(小词活用)Uber says he is embarrassed to be seen getting into its cars. It seems no coincidence that in April Lyft said it had raised another $600m from investors, valuing the firm at $7.5bn, around a third more than its previous mark.
这也反映出投资人对网约车业务的观念变化。以前很多人认为这是个赢家通吃的市场，一家大公司在每个国家都有近乎垄断的地位，但现在他们相信，人们在交通上的花费足以让不止一家公司成功。Lyft的联合创始人齐默将网约车服务比作无线通讯市场，在这个市场上，几家公司各自拥有高质量的覆盖率和大量客户。 That also reflects a change of mind among investors over the ride-hailing business. Having thought of it as a winner-takes-all market, in which one big company has a near-monopoly in each country, plenty now believe people will spend enough on transport for more than one player to prosper.(写作句型) Mr Zimmer, Lyft’s co-founder, compares ride-hailing to the wireless-carrier market, in which several companies boast high-quality coverage and plenty of customers.
当然，在网约车服务中提供良好的“覆盖率”，让车辆在几分钟内就能到达乘客所在的位置，这需要资源。Lyft的首席财务官布莱恩·罗伯茨(Brian Roberts)说：“我们还处在建造‘手机基站’的阶段。这很费钱。”但是，精力仍然集中在地理区域和战略上也许对公司有利。Lyft的注意力不像优步那样分散。优步不仅在向全球扩张，还在拓展新的业务线，如送餐和货运。 Offering good “coverage” in ride-hailing so that rides can arrive within a few minutes, of course, requires resources. “We’re at the stage of building cell towers. That’s expensive,” says Brian Roberts, Lyft’s chief financial officer. But it may help the firm that it remains geographically and strategically focused. It has fewer distractions than Uber, which in addition to expanding globally is pushing into new business lines, like food delivery and trucking.
Lyft对自动驾驶汽车的策略也与众不同。优步不惜投入重金研发自己的自动驾驶技术，以防范有朝一日另一种不需要司机的服务介入，以更低的价格削弱优步的竞争力。而Lyft却对其他公司开放自己的网络，包括谷歌的姊妹公司、开发自动驾驶汽车的Waymo(这家公司指控优步盗取商业机密)。 Lyft’s strategy on self-driving cars is also distinctive. Uber is investing heavily to build its own autonomous technology, guarding against the chance(写作句型) that another service could come in without drivers and undercut it on price. But Lyft has opened up its network to other firms, including Waymo, a self-driving car unit that is Google’s sister company (and which has accused Uber of stealing trade secrets).
Lyft认为，齐心协力胜过闭门造车，因为发展自动驾驶技术有太多的不确定性。6月，Lyft宣布还会和一家名为nuTonomy的自动驾驶创业公司合作，nuTonomy的无人车将在波士顿展开测试。有一种风险确实存在：Waymo和其他合作伙伴可能会用Lyft的数据完善自身的无人驾驶技术，然后推出与Lyft竞争的网约车服务。但这种可能性看起来还很遥远。 Collaborating with others is better than building expertise in-house, Lyft reckons, because so much uncertainty surrounds the evolution of autonomous technology. In June Lyft announced another relationship, with an autonomous-driving startup called nuTonomy, which will start testing cars in Boston. There is a risk that Waymo and other partners may try to perfect their own self-driving technology with Lyft’s data and then launch a competing ride-hailing network, but that seems a distant possibility.(写作句型)
在不远的将来，Lyft可能会发现，让自己保持与众不同变得更难了。优步已经开始模仿它的一些成功的策略，比如给小费，而且还在彻底改革自己的企业文化。很多开网约车的司机现在都同时接两家公司的单，这意味着乘坐Lyft的车已不再是件独特的事。 In the immediate future Lyft may find it harder to keep differentiating itself. Uber has mimicked some of its successful tactics, such as tipping, and is overhauling its culture. Many ride-hailing drivers now work for both services, which means travelling in a Lyft car is no longer unique.
Lyft已经赢得四分之一的美国市场，这有助于两家公司都转向盈利。2016年，Lyft亏损约6亿美元，优步亏损28亿美元。投资公司KKR的文森特·莱特瑞(Vincent Letteri)说，之前它们看起来像是要竞相砸钱，直到“同归于尽”。在拒绝参加Lyft前两轮融资后，KKR最近投资了这家公司。莱特瑞认为，优步现在已经接受了要与Lyft共存的现实。要想在美国达到健康盈利，从而为海外扩张买单并且稳住紧张的投资人，优步将不得不控制促销支出。这样，Lyft也就不再那么需要花费重金补贴司机和乘客了。它现在已经不再向新注册的客户提供50美元免费乘车券了(写作句型)。Lyft依旧想与人为善，但也不会想做冤大头。(写作句型)The fact that Lyft has won a quarter of the American market could help both firms’ profits. In 2016 it lost around $600m and Uber $2.8bn. They formerly seemed likely to spend money fighting to the point of “mutually assured destruction”, says Vincent Letteri of KKR, an investment firm that recently put cash into Lyft (after declining to join in two previous funding rounds). Uber now accepts that Lyft is there to stay; it will have to rein in promotional spending if it wants to achieve healthy profits in America to pay for expansion abroad and to reassure nervous investors, says Mr Letteri. Lyft will have less need to spend heavily on subsidies for drivers and riders. It has stopped its practice of offering new customers $50 in free trips to sign up. Lyft still wants to be nice, but has no wish to be taken for a ride.