Ride-sharing service Lyft raises $250 million

Apr 02, 2014

FORTUNE -- Ride-sharing company Lyft announced this afternoon that it has raised $250 million in new venture capital funding. The company did not disclose valuation, but CEO Logan Green acknowledged that earlier reports of a $700 million pre-money mark were in the right general ballpark.

Tech-focused hedge fund manager Coatue Management led the round, and was joined by Third Point and China's Alibaba Group. Return backers include Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund and Mayfield.

The San Francisco-based company previously raised around $82 million, including a $60 million Series C round last May. At the time, Lyft said that proceeds would be used to expand beyond its two inaugural markets. Now the service is in more than 30 U.S. cities, and has no plans to slow down.

"We launched two new cities last week and are doing another two this week," Green explains. "Our goal is too keep rapidly expanding, including internationally. and this cash raise lets us do that."

Green declined to say how many cities Lyft plans to be in by year-end, or where it will plant its first flags outside of the U.S. He also isn't releasing user numbers, except to say that the company's service has provided "millions of rides."

Lyft only launched its service two years ago, but the inclusion of hedge funds Coatue and Third Point raise at least the specter of an eventual IPO. When posed with the possibility, Green didn't exactly talk it off. "We're focused on building a large independent company, and that's a path we may take at some point," he explains. As for the involvement of Alibaba -- which is planning its own public offering for later this year -- Green talked about the opportunity to learn about what the company is doing in China's online payment space (AliPay) and transportation space, via its own taxi app.

The deep-pocketed investors also may help Lyft better compete with quasi-rival Uber, which last summer raised more than $350 million at a $3.4 billion pre-money valuation from TPG Capital and Google Ventures. Unlike Uber, Lyft does not contract with existing limo drivers and companies. Instead, its drivers use their own vehicles, albeit ones festooned with a giant pink mustache on the grill (a strategy Uber has mimicked with its UberX services, minus the mustaches). It also encourages more interactions between drivers and passengers, both before the ride (by its use of Facebook Connect) and during the ride (sitting shotgun, fist-bump greetings, etc.).

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