Birmingham native Elliot Darvick was all-in on the mission of San Francisco-based Lyft when first interviewed for a position at the ride-sharing company's offices in California.
“Growing up in Detroit and in an automotive family, I've always been surrounded by cars and transportation, and how to get people from A-to-B, and from B-to-C. I think transportation is in my blood,” he said. “And, I've always been enamored on how technology brings people closer together. Ultimately, that's what Lyft is. You press a button and within three minutes, you're sitting in a car and having a conversation with somebody you have never met before.”
While he didn't land the first job he interviewed for at the company, Lyft later decided to invest heavily in the Detroit market. Now in the midst of a $100 million nationwide investment, Darvick has been heading up operations in Detroit since 2016, where the company is transforming its operations in the city into a permanent hub.
As Lyft's general manager for Michigan and Ohio, Darvick is responsible not only for overseeing operations in the two states, but also for building partnerships in the region that match the goals of the company with the communities it services. So far, those partnerships have included a deal with Belle Tire that allows drivers to receive vehicle inspections, sponsorship of the Detroit City FC soccer team, MusicTown Detroit, the Detroit Department of Transportation and others. Darvick also sought out the Detroit Public Schools Foundation for Lyft's “Round Up & Donate” program, which allows customers to round up their fees to the nearest dollar as a way to donate to a local cause.
“That's a partnership I'm very proud of,” Darvick said. “I was thinking 'what is the most top of mind and greatest need that will ultimately strengthen our city.'”
A graduate of Cranbrook Kingswood High School, Darvick got interested in technology before college. A natural tinkerer, he learned his way around programs like Photoshop and Dreamweaver to create ads while serving on the school's newspaper staff. That led to creating websites for other clients, including a lobbying group in Lansing and a local surgeon. Later, Darvick and a partner formed their own business in Los Angeles, “Unbucket,” a list-sharing program.
“It started with the simple premise that people could share a list of things to do to bring people closer together,” he said. “I founded that with someone who had this passion about connecting people through technology. … that opened my eyes to what it takes to run a business, how to build a team and how to open doors.”
When the doors to Lyft opened for him, Darvick learned to open up to all aspects of the business. To succeed, he ditched his own vehicle in favor of using Lyft himself, as well as asking his wife for permission to use her car to log some hours himself.
“I sold my car about a year-and-a-half ago,” he said. “The idea of our mission is to get people to think differently about personal car ownership and all modes of transportation. I live in metro Detroit, and I want to see if that's possible. For the past year-and-a-half, I've taken a bus or Lyft from Huntington Woods to downtown Detroit.
“I generally don't miss driving. I like having time. Instead of gripping a wheel for an hour a day, I have time to do other things.”
Photo: Esme McClear