“It’s a crazy story … This is the most money we’ll ever make with this little time put into the effort.”
That’s how former USC student Myles Hunter explained how he and roommate Ari Stiegler “gamed the system” with Lyft to pull in tens of thousands of dollars a month as Lyft’s earliest brand ambassadors.
As seniors at USC, Hunter explained in an interview with Fusion how back in 2013, as Uber was growing in popularity, one of their fraternity brothers was making $15 for every new user he recruited for the company. Stiegler and Hunter decided to recruit for the opposition, another less popular ride sharing startup called Lyft — and it all started with a simple email.
According to Fusion, “Stiegler emailed Lyft’s general contact address in October of 2013 saying that Uber was paying recruiters $15 per user, and suggesting Lyft pay them $20. Somehow it worked.”
Hunter explained what they said in the email:
“We told them that we were really skilled at promotion and would get them tons of users … We were business majors, but we are just both real hustlers.”
Lyft agreed to their terms and the two got to work with their “proprietary promotion strategies,” which they were reluctant to share with Fusion. “We personally recruited tens of thousands of new Lyft users,” said Hunter, and they got paid $20 for each person who signed up, paid in cash.
How much money did they rake in? The exact number was not reported and Fusion leads us to believe it’s in the six digits, but to give you an idea, Hunter alone paid off his $30,000 in student loans, bought a new BMW and took a trip to Croatia. Hunter was “living like a king” in Los Angeles, and he and Stiegler had “weekly lobster business meetings.”
The two found themselves at the top of a Lyft pyramid, so they employed an actual pyramid scheme to dramatically increase their earnings.
“We were getting 100-200 users per week … Then we set up a kind of pyramid scheme where we got ambassadors to work under us and got a percentage of their earnings.”
In case you have a hard time believing the legitimacy of their scheme, Lyft’s spokesperson Paige Thelen also commented on the brand ambassador program and Ari and Myles’ role in everything.
“Our brand ambassador program was launched in 2013 as an additional paid acquisition channel to help spread the word about Lyft on college campuses across the country … Ari and Myles were two of our earliest brand ambassadors in Los Angeles and helped build out our brand ambassador teams on the UCLA and USC campuses. Additionally, Ari became a Lyft mentor, a leading ambassador who coached and mentored hundreds of other ambassadors across the nation.”
“We gamed the system … But we didn’t screw over Lyft. We used a lot of creative tactics to reach a lot of people who didn’t know about Lyft,” Hunter explained.
Now, two years later, Hunter and Stiegler don’t make those ridiculous amounts of easy money anymore. Since Lyft has grown in popularity, they reduced their rate per new user from $20 to $10 and then now to $5. The pair have since stopped actively recruiting, though they still get a small amount from their promo code.
“It’s not worth it for us anymore … We’re just getting $1,000 or $2,000 a month now. It’s heartbreaking. We’re making a tenth of what we were making before.”
Hunter has since moved on to work at a consulting firm, but hustling on the side is always an option — it just won’t be as easy as before.
“There’s nothing in the world that will be as easy to sell as Lyft and Uber … Anyone in any demographic will eventually need a ride somewhere. They won’t necessarily need to sleep in someone’s house or get clothes online.”
Unfortunately, the goldmine is exhausted. Lyft still has an ambassador program, but it’s definitely not what it used to be, Hunter explains.
“Lyft is spending money in smarter ways now … using more established marketing platforms like a typical large company does.”
While it’s too late to start on the Lyft or Uber pyramid, if you are looking to make some extra cash fast, keep an eye out for those promotions (particularly from online startups) that pay for new users — if you can find creative ways to spread the idea to users, you might just be able to pay your bills on time and more.