- John Sciulli/Getty Images for Lyft
Uber is getting battered by a never-ending bad-news cycle that has featured accusations of sexual harassment and a lawsuit brought by one of its investors.
That has created a big opening for Lyft, Uber’s main rival in the US, to capitalize on the situation.
So what’s Lyft’s master plan? According to Lyft’s cofounder and president, it all boils down to one word: “woke.”
“We’re woke. Our community is woke, and the US population is woke,” John Zimmer said in an interview with Time on Monday, referring to how his company planned to take advantage of Uber’s recent stumbles.
“There’s an awakening,” Zimmer continued. “Our vote matters, our choice matters, the seat we take matters.”
As if being “woke” made Lyft the obvious alternative, Zimmer offered a curious metaphor to explain the difference between Uber and Lyft.
“We’re not the nice guys,” he said. “We’re a better boyfriend.”
Zimmer’s use of “woke” might strike some as incongruous for a venture-backed company that has raised more than $1 billion in funding from the likes of Peter Thiel and Carl Icahn.
“Stay woke” has roots as a phrase used by black activists to acknowledge the systemic oppression of black people. It gained prevalence after the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.
When Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, wore a “stay woke” T-shirt in June, he said that using the term meant his eyes were open to the world around him, especially having been on the ground in Ferguson. But some viewed his wearing the shirt as extremely embarrassing.
Zimmer’s use of the activist phrase to promote his business goes one step further.
Downloading Lyft because you disagree with Uber’s business practices isn’t a “woke” act made by a “woke community” to side with a “woke” business. Lyft is right to capitalize on Uber’s stumbles, but saying it’s “woke” to do so is not how you do it.