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Credit-card data suggests Uber has far more revenue and customers than Lyft

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As startups wait longer and longer to go public, they grow into massive valuation numbers. But the data supporting such sky high valuations is usually hidden from the public. Is their revenue off the charts or stagnant? How many customers do they have compared to their competitors?

Those covering mature startups are stuck guesstimating, relying on self-reported vanity metrics from the company themselves, or leaked documents that quickly become out of date. We do the best with what we’ve got.

But perhaps the most complete comparison of Uber and Lyft’s businesses to date emerged Thursday. Investment advice startup FutureAdvisor has partnered with a financial API company — FutureAdvisor would not allow the name of that company to be released publicly, but it’s a big one — that processes transactions for many of the national banks. As you might imagine, this company is sitting on reams and reams of customer data. FutureAdvisor, by donating its own data scientists to the cause, convinced said company to release the numbers it has on Uber and Lyft.

Of the 3.8 million active credit and debit card users monitored by the financial firm, 96,000 of them used Uber and Lyft between June 2013 and May 2014, and 1.4 million ride transactions were tracked in that time span. It’s a sizable chunk, one that we can use to understand how the two ridesharing businesses compare. It’s by no means exact, of course. Without Uber and Lyft releasing the full numbers, this is a rough estimate. But it’s the best we’ve got to work with.

The macro conclusion is that Uber is a hell of a lot bigger than Lyft, Lyft is somewhat cheaper than Uber, and both companies have slowing growth compared to last year.

The numbers, however, come from before Uber started slashing summer Uberx prices like crazy, and only in the first month of Lyft’s expansion to 24 new markets at the end of April. A Lyft spokesperson told me that the company doesn’t charge new passengers during the first few weeks in these new markets as part of the company Pioneer Program. As a result, data from Lyft’s new markets wouldn’t appear in credit card transactions from May. “[The report] does not track the true extent of our actual growth rate which as an example, this past May saw rides increase by 40 percent (month over month),” a Lyft spokesperson said.

So read the below with the understanding that 1.4 million transactions make for a solid sample size, but startups change quickly and we don’t have further demographic insight into the customers sampled.

From June 2013 to May 2014, the 96,000 users sampled generated the following data set:

Uber’s revenue was twelve times the size of Lyft’s.

Uber: $26.4 million

Lyft: $2.2 million

Uber provided 7 times more rides than Lyft.

Uber: 1.23 million rides

Lyft: 170,000 rides

Lyft, on average, costs less

Average Uber ride: $21

Average Lyft ride: $13

Number of customers added per month

Uber: 6,200 – 7,300 new riders per month

Lyft: 1,100 – 1,500 new riders per month

Growth rates

Uber is growing new customers five times faster in absolute terms

Uber is growing revenue ten times faster than Lyft

Both companies have slowed their growth rate of adding new customers, from 25 percent in June of 2013 to ten percent by May 2014.*

*Lyft disputes this number, saying its month over month growth is now 40 percent