The Lyft Mafia

July 21, 2023
Tech Mafias

An Inside Look at Lyft's Alumni of Successful Founders.

Last week we kicked off with our weekly Tech Mafia Series where we track the most successful startups founded by previous employees from some of the most respected companies in the world. If you're not familiar with the term 'tech mafia', check out our previous intro article on the Twitter Mafia and one of the most prolific tech mafias of all time - the PayPal Mafia.

This week we've put together a list of 22 insanely innovative and successful companies founded by ex-employees of Lyft, including rising stars to watch out for.

Companies Covered:

  • Presto
  • Bird
  • Maven
  • Jasper Health
  • Felux
  • ZenLedger
  • Skillshare
  • Moment
  • Social Chat
  • Farmstead
  • Supergrain
  • Preset
  • Gantry
  • Vayu Robotics
  • Cardless
  • Union
  • Stackbit
  • Doppel
  • Trexity
  • Offsyte
  • Violet Labs
  • Zadar Labs

The formation of Tech Mafias is fascinating because brilliant minds and ideas exist in every company, so the opportunity to invest in the next big unicorn is likely closer to us than we would imagine (and not exclusive to venture capital firms only).

Investing in fellow coworkers' startups, especially as a community or alumni group, is one of the best ways to get in on the best deals as well as support the ideas and ventures of people you love and admire. Who knows what's around the corner in your own network and community!


‍Founder: Rajat Suri
Lyft Role:
Y Combinator
Capital Raised:

Rajat Suri co-founded Lyft way back in 2007 when it was actually still called Zimride. In 2008 he started his next project, Presto, which offers labor productivity solutions for hospitality businesses.

Suri’s background is super inspiring. Believe it or not, he dropped out of his doctoral program at MIT. After working as a server for 16 hours a day for one year, he created the first Presto “pay at table” product.

It was such a success that Suri then moved to Silicon Valley, corralled the best design and engineering talent he could find, and built up Presto.


Founder: Travis VanderZanden
Lyft Role:
Chief Operating Officer
Sequoia Capital, Greycroft, Index Ventures
Capital Raised:

Travis VanderZanden founded the popular electric scooter sharing service Bird. Prior to Bird, he was the Chief Operating Officer at Lyft as well as VP of International Growth at Uber. Bird  provides affordable and eco-friendly transportation in over 450 cities around the world.


Founder: Gagan Biyani
Lyft Role:
Advisor & Interim Head of Demand Marketing
Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital
Capital Raised:
Series A

Gagan Biyani has made a name for himself amongst the top entrepreneurs. Not only was he an Advisor and Interim Head of Demand Marketing at Lyft, he also founded the most popular platform for online courses, Udemy. He then went on to start Maven, a platform for cohort-based leadership programs allowing anyone to create a community and start their own course.

Jasper Health

Founder: Kira Wampler
Lyft Role:
Chief Marketing Officer
General Catalyst, Human Capital
Capital Raised:
Series A

Kira Wampler served as CMO of Lyft, and in her time there she drove a 7x increase in rides, making the brand a household name. She is the co-founder of Jasper Health, a developer of a smart planning application designed to provide personalized support to patients living with cancer.


Founder: Dallas Hogensen
Lyft Role:
VP of Corporate & Commercial Sales
Capital Raised:
Series A

Dallas Hogensen served as Head of Commercial Sales at Lyft in 2015, and later on in 2018 became VP of Corporate and Commercial Sales. In 2020 he founded Felux, a developer of business-to-business marketplaces and supply chain platforms designed for the steel and industrial industry.


Founder: Drew Nordstrom
Lyft Role:
Borderless Capital
Capital Raised:
Series B

We love the story of Drew Nordstrom as it’s not what you’d expect. He wasn’t your typical VP, Software Engineer, or Marketer at Lyft. Nope, he was a driver at Lyft!

In 2017, along with other industry veterans, he started ZenLedger, a cryptocurrency tax software designed to aid investors and tax professionals in portfolio management.


Founder: Malcolm Ong
Lyft Role:
Product & Growth
Spark Capital, Menlo Group
Capital Raised:
Series D

Malcolm Ong co-founded Skillshare, a popular online global learning community platform designed to offer the skills and expertise to those who are willing to learn. Skillshare has over 12 million registered users and thousands of teachers.


Founder: Lita Cho
Lyft Role: Staff Software Engineer
Investors: Essence Venture Capital, Grace Software Holdings
Capital Raised: $12.5M
Stage: Series A

Moment develops notebook software to automate any critical infrastructure workflow. Lita Cho previously worked for Pixar Animation Studios, Microsoft, Dreamworks, and Lyft before co-founding Moment in 2020.


Founder: Pradeep Elankumaran
Lyft Role: Product, Driver Growth Lead
Investors: Y Combinator
Capital Raised: $34M
Series B

Farmstead is an artificial intelligence-powered farm to doorstep grocery delivery startup. In addition to working at Lyft, Pradeep also worked at Yahoo as Director of Product Management before founding Farmstead and its unique same-day grocery model.


Founder: Maxime Beauchemin
Lyft Role: Software Engineer
Investors: Andreessen Horowitz, Redpoint
Capital Raised: $48M
Stage: Series B

Maxime Beauchemin worked as a Data Engineer at both Facebook and Airbnb and then as a Software Engineer at Lyft. In 2019 he founded Preset, which is an open analytics data platform, built on Apache Superset™.


Founder: Vicki Cheung
Lyft Role: Senior Staff Software Engineer
Investors: Index Ventures, Amplify Partners
Capital Raised: $24M
Stage: Series A

Gantry  is a software development platform designed to improve machine learning products with analytics, alerting, and human feedback. Before founding Gantry, Vicki was previously a Software Engineer at some of the most well-known companies, including Lyft, Duolingo, and OpenAi.


Founder: Vinay Shet
Lyft Role: Director of Product Management
Investors: Y Combinator
Capital Raised: $12M
Stage: Series A

Teleo is a construction robotics company founded by Vinay Shet in 2019. Teleo retrofits construction heavy equipment, like excavators and loaders, to turn them into autonomous robots.


Founder: Michael Spelfogel
Lyft Role: Data Scientist
Investors: Pear Ventures
Capital Raised: $50M
Stage: Series B

Michael Spelfogel was a Data Scientist at Lyft before co-founding Cardless in 2019. Cardless  helps brands launch custom cobrand credit card products and handles the program creation, card underwriting, lending, issuance, and more.


Founder: Ketan U.
Lyft Role: Senior Staff Software Engineer
Investors: NEA
Capital Raised: $10M
Stage: Seed

Ketan’s background is as impressive at it gets; he worked as a Software Engineer at Lyft, Amazon and Oracle! In 2020 he co-founded, which provides software users with the tools they need to move their ideas from concept to high-quality production.

Rising Stars to Watch Out For

Social Chat

Founder: Frost Li
Lyft Role: Advisor
Investors: Gradient Ventures, Kevin Lin, Tony Zhao
Capital Raised: $6M
Stage: Seed

Frost Li founded Social Chat, a platform that brings ML-driven social commerce solution to all brands. It includes all the marketing automation, analytics, live streaming and content repurposing abilities that Twitch, Wish and Pinterest offer but with easier integration and brand-specific. Frost Li has been advisor for several major companies including Lyft, Pinterest, and Rappi.


Founder: Dan Barak
Lyft Role:
Lead Product Manager
Zeev Ventures
Capital Raised: $14M
Series A

Dan Barak, who was previously Lead Product Manager at Lyft, founded Stackbit in 2019. Stackbit designs technology intended to build modern JAMstack websites in minutes.


Founder: Kevin Tian
Lyft Role:
Staff Engineer
AlphaLab Capital
Capital Raised:

Kevin Tian worked as Staff Engineer at Lyft before starting Doppel. His new company detects counterfeits from NFT marketplaces, identifies duplicates, alterations, and trademark infringements with computer vision and AI models and flags bad actors, and provides an audit trail, helping the clients to protect their IP and takedown counterfeit NFT collections.


Founder: Rob Woodbridge
Lyft Role:
Market Manager
AQC Capital
Capital Raised:

Trexity  is a logistics platform providing on-demand shipping solutions. It was founded by Rob Woodbridge in October 2020, so it’s still very new. Rob has been a strategic advisor, product developer and manager for over 30 years.


Founders: Emma Hong Guo & Jonathan Como
Lyft Roles: Senior Engineering Manager & Staff Software Engineer
Investors: Andrew Chen, Lenny Rachitsky, Eric Wu
Capital Raised: $1.5M
Stage: Seed

Offsyte, a marketplace for discovering and booking high-quality team events, was launched in the summer of 2020. Founders Jonathan Como and Emma Hong Guo both worked at Lyft for several years before starting their own company, which just in the first year of launching hosted more than 10,000 people from over 150 different organizations ranging from early-stage startups to Fortune 500s, non-profits, and universities.

Violet Labs

Founder: Lucy Hoag
Lyft Role: Systems Integration Engineering Manager
Investors: Felicis Venture
Capital Raised: $4M
Stage: Seed

Ex-Lyft employee Lucy Hoag founded Violet Labs in 2021. The Violet platform aggregates data from software applications used across the hardware dev lifecycle into a cloud-based single-source-of-truth for engineering teams.


Founder: George Xing
Lyft Role: Head of Analytics & Head of Decision Science Products
Investors: Benchmark Capital
Capital Raised: $7M
Stage: Seed

George Xing worked for six years at Lyft, first as Head of Analytics and then as Head of Decision Science Products. He started Supergrain in 2021. Supergrain  is a customer engagement platform built natively on your data warehouse. You can connect your data and run personalized marketing campaigns.

Zadar Labs

Founder: Mahmoud Saadat
Lyft Role: Senior Hardware Engineering Manager
Investors: Jeff Rothschild, Tim Kentley-Klay, Leslie Ventures
Capital Raised: $6M
Stage: Seed

Zadar Labs  develops imaging radar sensors intended for autonomous systems in all weather conditions. Mahmoud previously worked at Apple, Zoox, and Lyft, before co-founding the company in 2019.

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