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Which ridesharing services did startups prefer in Q3 2019?

uber app on a mobile phone screen

Winning the ride-share market is indeed an expensive endeavor. Both Uber and Lyft have to strike a careful balance between providing the best customer experience, ensuring drivers are getting paid the right amount, and still generating revenue—and hopefully profit one day. And capturing the loyalty of a startup that might one day grow into the size of an Amazon or Google early on is going to be important as well. 

We analyzed anonymized aggregate Brex customer spending data to get a better sense of the dynamics of the two companies. Brex customers are primarily early- to mid-stage startups in the Bay Area and New York—the kind of companies that could grow into massive organizations with thousands of employees that need to get around the city.  

Both Uber and Lyft went public earlier this year in two of the most anticipated IPOs of, well, the decade (or at least since Facebook). Uber’s share price has since fallen by around 30%, while Lyft’s has fallen by around 50%. Both have reported substantial losses in their quest for growth.

How are startups getting around?

The third quarter, for the most part, didn’t change the distribution all that much. Brex customers shifted some spend away from Uber into other services, such as regular taxis or micro-mobility services. Uber and Lyft still account for nearly 90% of all Brex customer spending on transportation. 

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Taxi and other transportation services outside of Lyft and Uber made up 15% of Brex customer spending in the first half of the year. 

We found that Brex customers also typically pay more for each Lyft ride than Uber rides. Lyft rides account for a much smaller volume of total ridesharing spend, as we’ll see below. But there could be a number of dynamics at play here, including usage during peak hours or typical distances for each Lyft ride.

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Where ridesharing loyalty lies

We found that, once again, a significant chunk of spending goes only to Uber—what we’ll consider “loyalty”—compared to Lyft. The percentage of exclusive spending for Lyft and Uber has remained relatively unchanged over time. Only around 4% of spending in September went exclusively toward Lyft, while 32% went exclusively toward Uber. 

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This is a small decline for Lyft and a slight increase for Uber year over year.  Each small percentage point at the scale of hundreds of thousands (or millions) of rides can make a big difference. Lyft loyalty spend was at one point this year 8% of all Brex customer spending, but has since dropped off.

As time goes on, both Uber and Lyft will want to ensure they capture the loyalty and become the preferred ridesharing company for startups—as they grow, their transportation needs grow too. Startups also have to decide which service they should tell their employees to use, and may even define which ones to use in their corporate card policies. Companies might consider being price conscious and using both, or to just pick one and stick with it.

Lyft and Uber are going to have to show the public markets that they’re able to build sustainable businesses as time goes on. When both launched, they effectively defined a new category in the gig economy. But there still remains the question of what Lyft and Uber really are. They might be considered technology companies, or pipes that enable new technologies, or even platforms. And as they grow into new categories like micro-mobility, those definitions may continue to evolve.

We’ll take a closer look in the fourth quarter again to see how the dynamics continue among the startup community. To get a deeper dive into how these dynamics have played out over the course of the year, you can check out our first issue of the Brex Quarterly Review.


We analyzed aggregate anonymized Brex spending data to get a better sense of how startups are using ridesharing services. Share of spending is defined as the total spend for one merchant over the total spend of all merchants in that category. Exclusive spending is defined as spending from customers that only used Uber, Lyft, or Both, for each ridesharing company.

As part of its underwriting process, Brex maintains visibility into the spending of companies that use its products. Companies who asked that their data not to be shared were not used, and any company that does not wish to share its data for future aggregated analysis may request to exclude it from being shared in the aggregate.

Photo credit: Charles on Unsplash

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