The next time you call for a Lyft car and instead you get a DeLorean from Back to the Future, or a horde of hungry zombies, or a faceful of chicken feathers, you'll have one person to thank: Ethan Eyler, Lyft's resident merry prankster.
While other Silicon Valley startups have recently abandoned their whimsical, mischievous pasts in favor of a more buttoned-up facade for institutional investors, Lyft continues to lean into its commitment to totally messing with its customers. Eyler invented the company's iconic fuzzy pink mustache logo and now he heads Lyft's so-called ride experience team. He's the guy who gets paid big bucks to sit around and thinking of weird, elaborately plotted pranks to pull on the company's unsuspecting riders.
Lyft users with a sadistic streak may enjoy the new prank mode
This April Fools' Day, Eyler's "patron saint holiday," Lyft's ride experience team is going all out. They've added a feature to the app called "prank mode" in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Users who select the feature can send a rigged Lyft car to pick up the person they want to prank. While in route, a fake radio broadcast is played in the car, something like a truck carrying hundreds of live chickens colliding with a tanker truck and then an explosion. (Because who doesn't find mass poultry casualties funny?)
Then, an actor in burned clothing, covered in soot and ashes and chicken feathers, gets in the car carrying a live chicken in a cage, ranting about explosions and chickens. At some point, presumably, the person who requested the prank gets to jump out and play the Ashton Kutcher role with some satisfying "you should have seen your face" jabs. And then the prankee gets to beat that person to a pulp. Because come on.
That's sort of what happened to Golden State Warrior center Festus Ezeli on Thursday, when his Lyft driver turned on the radio and a fake talk show began reporting the "news" that Ezeli had been cut from the team. Meanwhile, his teammates — who were in on the gag, natch — began texting him their condolences. But before things turned truly depressing, there were balloons, and some cake throwing. In your face, Festus!
Eyler says he's always been interested in pranks. His first business ventures were in marketing and social gaming, like changing the color of the cows on Facebook's Farmville. His first company was Run Wilder, where the main product was Ozgood, a brown puppet who chugged beer, scarfed hamburgers, and vomited. Eyler describes Ozgood as a Tamagotchi-like experience, but with copious bodily fluids.
Then he had the idea that would eventually lead him to Lyft: "I thought it would be funny if cars had mustaches," he said. After attaching a prototype — black, not pink — to the front of his car, the results were immediate. "People went bananas, and started flagging me down to ask me where I got it." To the chagrin of his wife, he quit his marketing job and opened CarStache in the basement of his home in San Francisco.
CarStache caught the attention of John Zimmer and Logan Green, who then were running a carpooling company called Zimride. They bought a bunch of orange CarStaches for their drivers, and later, after launching Lyft, they decided to buy the company, bringing Eyler along for the ride.
His first title at Lyft was "inventor," and he was charged with setting the tone at the company. Some of his tasks were mundane, like coming up with a replacement for the CarStache after drivers began complaining about having to constantly clean street grime out of the not-so-pink-anymore fur. (His idea? GlowStache, a glowing pink emblem that drivers could tastefully place in their window.) Other jobs required Eyler to pull out all stops. "I needed to transcend the stache," he said.
"I needed to transcend the stache."
For Halloween last year, he proposed "zombie delivery," where riders in select cities could request a horde of the undead to annoy their coworkers or "resurrect a dead party." Actors from Upright Citizens Brigade played the zombies. Lyft picked up their tab, as well as the cost for makeup and assumedly the medical bills from any ensuring bite wounds. And for Back To the Future Day, Lyft offered riders a chance to request a ride in a DeLorean DMC-12.
The company would not comment on Eyler's budget, except to say it "runs the gamut." Eyler says he only feels limited by the confines of each vehicle that's being driven for Lyft. "We have something that most other companies don't have," he said. "Our own stage to do what we want."