From Lyft's headquarters in San Francisco, director of communications Erin Simpson says drivers for the ride-hailing app are eager to "hit the road" in Cleveland for their Friday launch. Already on hand as drivers are a local fourth-grade teacher, a chef, a marathon runner, and a handful of medical and dental students from Case Western Reserve.
"It's a really great range," says Simpson.
The Uber ride-hailing app launched in Cleveland this morning, with the Cleveland Indians' Jason Kipnis as "rider zero." Note: Kipnis blasted a home run in the first game of the Tribe's double-header against the Padres Wednesday afternoon.
Simpson says that compared to Uber, Lyft is much more about community experience.
"We say it's like getting a ride from a friend," she says. "Our drivers are passionate and creative people who are interested in connecting with other people in the community. In a way, Lyft makes cities seem smaller."
Simpson says that the company's philosophy is embodied in its logo, a pink mustache.
"It serves a very logical purpose because you can see that your car is coming," says Simpson. "But the mustache makes you smile and it acts as an icebreaker when your're meeting someone for the first time.
At Lyft headquarters, they're always hearing stories of drivers and passengers becoming friends, inviting each other over for Thanksgiving, connecting over obscure music tastes, etc.
"In a Lyft, people typically sit in the front seat and have a conversation," Simpson says.
Like Uber, Lyft has a rigorous safety process. (A list of safety criteria for drivers is available on Lyft's website). Drivers must be 23 years of age or older, and vehicles must be a 2000 model or newer, with four doors.
Cleveland is city number 31 for Lyft, which has recently launched in Cincinnati, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Detroit. Simpson says demand has been high and interest continues to grow in those cities. She's expecting similar interest in Northeast Ohio.
"In a place like Cleveland, where many people own cars, we see this as a valuable option to close those gaps. It's an affordable and reliable option," Simpson says, "especially if there's not available public transportation."
Katie Dally, on the Lyft communications team, tells Scene that during Lyft's launch weekend, Lyft will be matching donations from each ride to support the Greater Cleveland Food Bank's "Backpacks for Kids" program, an organization she says was selected by members of the local Lyft community.