Update: Uber filed confidential papers for an IPO following Lyft’s announcement on December 6.
Rideshare company Lyft is filing for an initial public offering, or IPO, according to a company announcement, beating rival Uber to the punch.
The IPO could happen as early as March, according to reports, although it’s not clear how much money Lyft hopes to raise from the process.
Lyft would be the first company in the fast-growing ridesharing industry to go public. Uber, its much larger rival, is also reported to be considering an IPO.
Lyft IPO: Why go public?
When a company goes public, it sells a block of its private shares to the public, via an exchange such as the New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq, depending on where the company decides to list.
The IPO process allows the business owners to sell private shares to the public for cash, which the company owners can then use to fund operations, or for some other purpose. (In recent years, top tech firms have raised billions of dollars from their IPOs.)
Another way that some private companies fund their operations in the early stages is through venture capital. Venture capital is provided by private firms that specialize in funding startup businesses as an investment.
So-called VC companies help startups grow by providing money in exchange for partial ownership.
But VCs hope to make money on their investments, through something called an “exit.” One kind of exit is an IPO, because VCs can sell their shares to the public. Another exit is when the company they’ve funded is acquired by another company, usually at a higher value than when they invested initially.
Lyft has raised about $5 billion from venture capital firms since its founding in 2012.
Uber vs. Lyft
Lyft is much smaller than its rival Uber, but it is Uber’s toughest competitor.
Lyft reportedly controls about a quarter of the rideshare market in the U.S, to Uber’s 75%. Lyft is valued at $15 billion, compared to Uber’s $120 billion valuation.
Neither company makes a profit, although they take in billions of dollars in revenues each year. Both companies reportedly still lose money.