Even after stepping away from Big Tech for more than two decades, incoming Lyft CEO David Risher feels more than capable of taking over the helm at the rideshare company.
“[At Microsoft], I really got a sense of both how technology can work at scale but also really the energy that can come from competing,” Risher tells Fast Company. “Microsoft was very competitive, and so am I. And so does Lyft have to be. When you’re number two, you’ve got to compete hard.”
Shares of Lyft initially jumped late Monday after the company announced cofounders Logan Green and John Zimmer were leaving their management positions, with Risher to take the helm. But that confidence dropped as Tuesday went on and some analysts warned that Risher lacked “recent, directly relevant leadership experience,” as Jefferies analyst John Colantuoni put it.
Risher served as a general manager of Microsoft from 1991 to 1997, where, according to a blog post on Lyft’s website, “Microsoft Access grew from nothing to the market-share leader.” Risher left Microsoft to join Amazon in its early days as a vice president. After leaving Amazon in the early 2000s, he founded a nonprofit called Worldreader, which helps deliver books to children.
Risher says his stint at Amazon instilled in him an “insane” focus on customers. “I mean insane in the best possible way,” he says. “That’s what sets Amazon apart, and I lived and breathed it. That was really my job—in a low margin and challenging business department.”
Risher’s time leading Worldleader, meanwhile, taught him the art of doing more with less. “We got really good at being smart about a cost,” he says. “And then, of course, I’ve been on the [Lyft] board for a couple of years. So when I put that together, it’s very flattering that the board chose me, but I actually think that they made a good choice. I think my skills are a good match.”
Risher is set to take over the company on April 17, and he’s certainly got a big job ahead of him. Lyft has struggled to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, with issues like driver supply-fueled wait time increases taking a toll on the company. The incoming CEO is hoping to take the company back to the basics.
“We’re going to focus on making sure that when you open the app, we don’t lose on price. We’re going to make sure that people pick you up faster, and we get you to where you want to go,” Risher says. “There’s a certain, I think, sort of grace in the simplicity of saying: ‘We’re really going to focus on a great rideshare experience for both our passengers or riders and our car drivers.’ And that’ll be what we do.”
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