Lyft Says Former COO Took Confidential Files With Him to Uber

Travis VanderZanden denies the claims that he took secret company information with him when he left one ridesharing company for the other.

learn more about Catherine Clifford

By Catherine Clifford • Nov 11, 2014 Originally published Nov 11, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There's friendly competition, and then there's what's going on between Uber and Lyft. It's getting colder and colder, more and more nasty between the two San Francisco-based transportation technology companies.

In the latest round of battle, Lyft filed a complaint with the Superior Court of the State of California yesterday afternoon against former chief operating officer Travis VanderZanden, saying that when he left Lyft for rival Uber, he took classified documents with him. The lawsuit accuses him of "breach of written contract -- confidentiality agreement" and "breach of fiduciary duty."

Related: This Obsessive Entrepreneur Documented His 955 Rides as a Lyft Driver

VanderZanden left Lyft -- the ridesharing company whose drivers affix pink, furry mustaches to their cars -- to join Uber in August.

According to the complaint, "computer forensic evidence" proves that he synced his Lyft laptop with his personal Dropbox account, accessing 98,000 documents. Of those filed, "a significant number" were "Lyft's most sensitive documents," the brief states. Documents found in VanderZanden's personal Dropbox include financial information, strategic planning materials, product plans, international growth documents and private information about Lyft's employees.

Lyft said it was forced to take legal action. "We are disappointed to have to take this step, but this unusual situation has left us no choice but to take the necessary legal action to protect our confidential information," the company said in a statement. "We are incredibly proud of the dedicated and people-powered culture that we've fostered to support drivers, passengers and the entire Lyft community and we will not tolerate this type of behavior."

Related: Uber Picks Up Lyft's Former COO

Meanwhile, VanderZanden denies the allegations. Last night, he tweeted: "Lyft's PR has lost it, the allegations in their complaint are ridiculous." This morning, he continued his defense, arguing that he did nothing out of the ordinary:

"Just to be crystal clear, I did not take any confidential data to Uber. Like many other early employees at Lyft, I used my personal dropbox to collaborate on files. In fact, I was invited to view many of the documents listed in the complaint by the co-founders directly. After leaving Lyft and before joining Uber, I realized they hadn't revoked my invites, so I deleted all remaining files myself. All the facts will come out, but I wanted to clear up the mis-information and protect against this audacious attack on my reputation."

The legal dispute follows a confession from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in a profile for Vanity Fair that when Lyft was making the rounds raising money from venture capitalists, Uber was unapologetically going back to the same VCs to pitch Uber. "We knew that Lyft was going to raise a ton of money," Kalanick told tech reporter Kara Swisher. "And we are going [to their investors], "Just so you know, we're going to be fund-raising after this, so before you decide whether you want to invest in them, just make sure you know that we are going to be fund-raising immediately after.' "

For a burgeoning industry that depends on strangers interacting cordially and with civility towards one another, the executives of the leading companies in the ridesharing industry are going for each other's jugulars.

Related: This Ridesharing Service You've Never Heard of Has 10 Million Members and Counting

Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

This Co-Founder Was Kicked Out of Retailers for Pitching a 'Taboo' Beauty Product. Now, Her Multi-Million-Dollar Company Sells It for More Than $20 an Ounce.
Have You Ever Obsessed Over 'What If'? According to Scientists, You Don't Actually Know What Would Have Fixed Everything.
Most People Don't Know These 2 Things Are Resume Red Flags. A Career Expert Reveals How to Work Around Them.
Starting a Business

5 Ways to Expand Your Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Business

The new book, Start Your Own Pet Business, details easy ways to add new revenue streams to your biz.

Thought Leaders

5 Small Daily Habits Self-Made Millionaires Use to Grow Their Wealth

We've all seen what self-made millionaires look like on TV, but it's a lot more subtle than that. Brian Tracy researched what small daily habits these successful entrepreneurs adopted on their journey from rags to riches.

Business News

Massive Fire At Top Egg Farm Leaves Estimated 100,000 Hens Dead. What Does This Mean For Egg Prices?

Hillandale Farms in Bozrah, Connecticut went up in flames on Saturday in an incident that is still under investigation.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas To Start Right Now

To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.

Business News

Survey: A Majority of Americans Are Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Sixty-four percent of U.S. consumers live paycheck to paycheck — even those who earn more than $100,000 a year.