Will First-Ever VP Of Investor Relations Help Lyft Beat Uber To An IPO?

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Kristina Omari, a tech company veteran and mergers-and-acquisitions guru, has been hired by Lyft as its first-ever vice president of corporate development and investor relations, making her the highest-ranking black woman at the ride-hailing company.

Omari’s appointment to the Lyft leadership team has analysts predicting the firm will go public soon — sooner, perhaps, than rival ride-sharing company Uber.

Lyft’s leadership team is just 1 percent black, according to its June 2017 diversity report. That includes managers who have people reporting directly to them, TechCrunch reported. In its EEO-1 report from 2016, Lyft had no black women in management roles.

“Of the 54 black women Lyft employed at the time of the report, only 10 were professionals while 44 were in administrative support jobs. Omari, however, is not the only black woman in a management role or higher, a Lyft spokesperson told TechCrunch.”

Omari’s role could suggest an upcoming public offering. Hiring a head of investor relations tends to mean a company is preparing to debut on the stock market, PitchBook reported. That’s because public companies face increased expectations for regulatory compliance and communication with their investors.

Lyft IPO
Kristina Omari is Lyft’s new vice president of corporate development and investor relations. Photo: Lyft

 

Omari has worked in investment, strategy and mergers and acquisitions for the past 20 years.

She co-founded the diversity and inclusion nonprofit BuildUp, which focuses on helping under-represented tech entrepreneurs. Most recently, she was vice president of corporate development for wearables company Fitbit, starting work there in September 2015, about three months after Fitbit went public. Before that, she worked at Adobe and Hewlett-Packard — both public companies — and at Lehman Brothers.

The Lyft brand, recognizable by a pink mustache, has been No. 2 after its larger rival Uber, The Motley Fool reported. Mired in sexual harassment scandals, Uber has had a horrible year. Lyft, by comparison, had a good 2017.

Most investors assumed Uber would be the first of the two to go public with a 2019 target. The New York Times reported that sources said Lyft is now exploring going public in 2018.

With Omari coming on board, Lyft has the potential to go public sooner rather than later following a new funding round. Last week, Lyft announced that a recent round of funding increased from $1 billion to $1.5 billion. The additional $500 million came from new investors that included Fidelity Management & Research Company, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, and existing investors.

Lyft has had two big funding rounds this year totaling $2 billion-plus — this could be strengthening its position for an IPO, CNET reported.

Lyft’s $11.5 billion valuation is just a fraction of Uber’s estimated $68 billion, but Lyft more than doubled the 162.6 million rides it provided during 2016, according to John Zimmer, Lyft co-founder and president. Lyft took market share from Uber, which used up energy battling negative media attention. Travis Kalanick ultimately resigned as CEO of Uber. The added funding will help Lyft put more pressure on already vulnerable Uber. “Going public could take that pressure to a new level,” Motley Fool reported.

Omari “brings a proven track record of helping companies grow in a fast-paced environment,” said Brian Roberts, Lyft’s chief financial officer, in a statement. “Her skills and experience will help Lyft continue to expand.”

Lyft has declined to comment on whether it plans a 2018 IPO and has said that Omari’s hiring has nothing to do with a possible IPO, The Atlanta Voice reported.

Lyft has received $4.1 billion in venture funding compared to Uber’s $12.9 billion. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has suggested that the company would move to a 2019 initial public offering in the next 18 to 36 months, according to CNET.

In September, it was reported that Lyft was close to choosing an advisory firm for an upcoming listing, according to PitchBook. Last week, documents revealed that Lyft brought in $483 million in revenue during the first half of 2017 compared to $150 million in the first half of 2016.

“Right now, Lyft is expanding geographically, increasing market share, raising valuable capital, enjoying the negative press surrounding its rival, and inking deals with major companies such as General Motors as the auto industry drives toward the future of autonomous vehicles,” Motley Fool reported.