Everything you need to know about Instacart

Grocery delivery service Instacart has exploded in popularity since its 2012 launch, capturing more than half of the US online grocery market. Here’s an overview of the business ahead of a likely 2021 IPO.

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What is Instacart?

Instacart is a US-based grocery delivery and pick-up company, enabling customers to order from participating retailers through its website and mobile app, and receive their goods via personal shoppers.

Founded in 2012 by serial entrepreneur and former Amazon employee Apoorva Mehta, the company began via an app. It was funded initially by a Y Combinator accelerator, through which it raised $120,000. Using Mehta’s network of Silicon Valley contacts, the company grew by positioning itself as a speedier grocery delivery choice than rivals who also offered same-day deliveries.

Funding rounds of $2.3 million and $8.5 million followed, helping Instacart develop a presence in some 20 cities within two years of starting up and signing deals with giants such as Whole Foods and PepsiCo.

As of most recent 2019 figures, the company’s revenues are in excess of $3 billion, an increase of $1.2 billion year on year, with more than 5.5 million users and 500,000 shoppers serving 5,500 cities.  

How does Instacart make money?

Instacart makes money through delivery fees charged on each of its grocery and pick-up orders. For transactions above $35, $5.99 is charged, while orders above $35 cost $7.99 for delivery, with a minimum order of $10. Fees may increase for customers who want quicker delivery or busier timeslots. Instacart also provides space for brands to advertise on the platform.

Additionally, customers have the option of subscribing to an annual membership of $99 or a monthly service of $9.99. This gives them an array of benefits including waived delivery fees in certain conditions, reduced service fees, and a more accommodating price structure during busy hours.

Is Instacart profitable?

Although Instacart does not publish net profits, according to a leaked document it recorded its first profitable month in April 2020, after reportedly suffering $25 million in losses every month. The profitability of the company since 2020 is unclear, but the fundraise of $265 million completed in March 2021 (see below) should go some way to cover any losses the company may experience from this point, in the short term at least.

Who are Instacart’s competitors?

Instacart’s competitors can be said to encompass operators using the same model of delivering via third party grocers, such as Shipt, but also providers that deliver from source such as FreshDirect.

Additionally, there are mealkit providers supplying pre-measured ingredients, such as Blue Apron, and restaurant services such as Postmates that, while offering slightly different services, could see some overlap in terms of customer intent.

What is Instacart’s strategy?

Instacart’s strategy from the beginning was rooted in facilitating the online grocery ordering process to enable consumers convenient delivery of their shopping, as well as helping smaller grocers to succeed online.

In 2016, a partnership with Whole Foods afforded Instacart exclusive delivery of the grocer’s goods. This didn’t last long, as Amazon’s subsequent purchase of Whole Foods clearly meant a demise of the Instacart-Whole Foods relationship. But as supermarkets became concerned that Amazon would undercut their prices, many decided to partner with Instacart. Instead of the severed ties with Whole Foods proving to be a negative, 200 retail partners soon became 350 for the online operator.  

The scale of the operational challenge during the coronavirus outbreak would become apparent, as the company saw a 500% jump in order volume as anxious shoppers looked to avoid public spaces.

Following the rush of business seen during that period, Instacart has sought to expand into new geographical markets and has launched new products to tempt consumers into the world of e-commerce. The care team has grown, the number of consumer packaged goods partners increased, and the range of products bolstered, now catering for alcohol and prescription delivery as well as beauty and general merchandise.

Who are the directors of Instacart?

Instacart has a number of key personnel that have helped progress the company to its current multi-billion dollar valuation. Here are some of them.

Position

Name

CEO/founder

Apoorva Mehta

Co-founder

Brandon Leonardo

Co-founder

Max Mullen

Chief Financial Officer

Sagar Sanghvi

Vice President of Retail

Chris Rogers

Chief Marketing Officer

Jakii Chu

Chief Communications Officer

Dani Dudeck

When is the Instacart IPO?

Instacart is still considering the details of a potential IPO. Following its latest fundraise of $265 million, there were rumours that the company may instead choose to go for a direct listing, where no new shares are created and a company simply sells existing shares to the public.

However, it is unclear the direction the company will take when it comes to flotation. If, in the wake of its latest fundraise, it doesn’t need immediate cash, and if the company fears debuting at too low of a price, it could be some time before clarity arises on the issue.

Take a look at some of the other top IPOs for 2021.

How much is Instacart worth?

Instacart is worth some $39 billion, following its latest funding round of $265 million completed in March 2021. In total, the company has raised well over $2 billion across more than 14 rounds of venture capital funding. Its valuation has grown from $3.4 billion in 2017, to $7.6 billion in 2018, to $17.7 billion in October 2020 before the latest valuation in March 2021.

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