The ReSET - The Dark Side of Lyft’s IPO


Newt Fowler

There’s a dark side to Lyft’s IPO. It’s not coming to terms with how an app that impoverishes gig economy workers can be worth over $25 Billion. It’s Lyft’s nefarious guerilla marketing campaigns that hit cities in advance of its initial public offering last Friday.

Different cities were subjected to different campaigns. There was the strange planking that played out in Boston, then came Lyft branded cars seemingly half submerged into walls in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Finally there was the flash mob in Times Square Thursday afternoon forming Lyft’s NASDAQ ticker symbol.

In Baltimore and other cities, Lyft’s guerilla marketing efforts arrived as a perverse game of frogger played out during rush hour. For those too young to remember, Konami created the arcade game frogger in 1981,which spread rapidly as a table top attraction in every pizza parlor, bar and bowling alley across America. The object, simple enough,was to navigate a frog across a busy road with a toggle stick as cars careened by. Toggle wrong and splat.

Lyft has its own take on frogger. During rush hour throughout last week commuters across the country quickly discovered that they were trapped leaving downtowns as cars in front of them slowed in their lane. Before one could quickly pass, the lead car turned on its flashers and stopped. In a recent upgrade to the app in advance of its IPO, Lyft drivers are now able to coordinate simultaneous stops across multiple lanes, leaving those who still think owning a car makes sense, mercilessly gridlocked, left to count the flashers blinking for blocks ahead.

In Baltimore, upset by the fact that the city’s static version of frogger (potholes) has been supplanted by Lyft’s more dynamic approach, Mayor Pugh has recommended a blockage fee be assessed to any ride company found to be congesting the city’s arteries, which she has hiplycoined the “frogger tax”. In a press conference this morning, April 1st, announcing the new tax, Mayor Pugh wished all a cheery April Fools’ Day. While Lyft’s frogger might be in fun, the Mayor reminded her constituents that potholes will continue to be installed by the Department of Public Works for the foreseeable future.

With more than 30 years’ experience in law and business, Newt Fowler, a partner in Womble Bond Dickinson’s business practice, advises many investors, entrepreneurs and technology companies, guiding them through all aspects of business planning, financing transactions, technology commercialization and M&A. He’s the pastboard chair of TEDCO. Newt can be reached at

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