John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft, has been named the recipient of the 2017 Cornell Hospitality Innovator Award, an honor given annually by the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration (SHA). Zimmer will receive the award at the 9th annual Cornell Hospitality Icon and Innovator Awards, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, at The Pierre Hotel in New York City.
Lyft, headquartered in San Francisco, is an on-demand app-based ridesharing service available in 300 cities across the United States. Since its inception in 2012, Lyft has served hundreds of millions of rides, with a focus on connecting drivers and passengers through a safe and friendly experience.
A 2006 graduate of SHA, Zimmer's interest in transportation began during his time at Cornell. There, while taking a city planning course, he learned that cars remain parked 96 percent of the time, and when they are used, only 20 percent of seats are occupied. Zimmer then applied his knowledge of hotel room occupancy to vehicles with a goal to increase transportation efficiency and sustainability, joining co-founder Logan Green in launching the ridesharing platform Zimride, and eventually Lyft.
"Innovation occurs when you solve an old problem by examining it through a new lens," said Kate Walsh, interim dean and E. M. Statler Professor at SHA. "Mr. Zimmer's hospitality-focused approach to transportation led to a concept — peer-to-peer ridesharing — that has absolutely revolutionized the way we think about this industry."
Zimmer's hospitality background permeates Lyft, which creates a sense of community among drivers and passengers. It encourages drivers to customize the user experience, with some arriving in costume, and others offering free snacks, activities, and the convenience of phone chargers. In December 2016, the company introduced the Amp, which allows personalized messaging and a unique color display for each passenger to help identify their driver.
In 2014, Zimmer was named one of Forbes magazine's "30 under 30" in the technology sector. Lyft continues to stay agile as they introduce their service to new cities, many with limiting regulations on ridesharing services. The company, which has raised $2 billion to-date, has also partnered with General Motors to launch a fleet of autonomous vehicles.
Since its inception in 2009, the Cornell Hospitality Icon and Innovator Awards has grown to be the largest event on the Hotel School's calendar, attracting each year more than 600 of the most influential leaders and innovators in the hospitality and travel industry from 17 countries. The event fundraises for the school's Annual Fund that provides critical need-based scholarships to its students.
To date, the following companies have pledged their support for this event: Premier Media Supporter, USA Today; Platinum supporters Hersha Hospitality Trust, Hilton Worldwide, JLL, The Leading Hotels of the World, Questex Hospitality Group, Stonebridge Companies, and Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces; and Gold supporters Eastdil Secured, HotelPlanner.com, and Wyndham Hotel Group.
For details about the 9th Annual Cornell Icon and Innovator Awards or opportunities for corporate support, visit http://www.shacomm.cornell.edu/e/182172/ity-icon-innovator-awards-html/h2bf2/43170021 or contact Jennifer Macera at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607.255.3101.
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