Lyft has officially gone international. The ride-hail company announced on Monday that, starting in December, it will begin operations in Toronto, marking the first time Lyft will be available outside the US. The news follows an earlier report that Lyft was poised to grab a third of the ride-hailing market in the US in the latest sign that the company was continuing to profit off Uber’s stumbles earlier in the year.
To be sure, Lyft has been talking about pushing into international markets for several years now. And it seemed poised to do that two years ago when it announced it would be teaming up with a trio of Asian ride-hail companies — India’s Ola, Southeast Asia’s Grab, and China’s Didi — to compete with Uber. But that plan fell apart after Didi absorbed Uber’s China business after a costly price war. And the original deal with Lyft was less about Lyft operating drivers in those countries, and more about piggybacking on the other app companies’ technology.
a real foothold in a non-US country
But now Lyft will have a real foothold in a non-US country. It’s the culmination of an ambitious expansion plan that kicked off at the beginning of the year, when Lyft said it would launch in 100 additional US cities by the end of 2017. That goal was achieved in in March, months ahead of schedule. Last October, the company said it had launched in South Dakota, making it available in all 50 states. But Lyft still has a long way to go to catch up with Uber, which is available in over 560 cities around the globe.
A few days later, Lyft announced a giant cash infusion of $1 billion from CapitalG, Alphabet’s venture arm. The news hit just as Lyft was continuing to profit off of Uber’s mishaps. In July, it was reported that Lyft’s gross bookings grew at a faster rate than Uber, and a major investor recently predicted that Lyft will have boosted its share of US ride-hailing business some 61 percent by the end of the year.
It will be interesting to see which international cities Lyft expands to next. As a predominantly English-speaking city just past the US border with an incredibly tech-savvy population, Toronto isn’t much of a stretch for Lyft. For non-English-speaking cities with their own transportation cultures and customs, Lyft will likely encounter more resistance and roadblocks… just like Uber has.
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