What’s Keeping Instacart Rolling to An IPO After an Aborted DoorDash Deal and Gig Worker Uprising


Thinknum Media's People Editor

Instacart’s new CEO, Fidji Simo, is facing an uphill battle in the run-up to the company’s public debut, including a reckoning with its gig workers.

Instacart was exactly what we needed in the early days of Covid when even a trip to the supermarket was deemed a health risk.  The grocery delivery startup saw users spike and revenue explode.

Less than a year later, the picture is less rosy. Both users and sales have died down. The company’s former CEO tried and failed to sell the company in July, and now its gig workers are threatening to quit en masse. Amid that turmoil, the company is planning a public debut.

While it’s unclear whether Instacart will opt for an IPO or a direct listing, the company is aiming to go public by the end of the year. Investors have been buzzing about the debut since rumors first began circulating in March. 

They’ve also been buzzing about the company’s new CEO, Fidji Simo, who has ambitious plans to expand its business model, including the introduction of an advertising platform. The push for more advertising and tech tools for retailers, which have been compared to Facebook’s, might not come as a surprise considering Simo and Instacart’s newly appointed president, Carolyn Everson, both worked for Facebook before joining.

The expansion comes after an 18-month roller-coaster ride of highs and lows for the company. At the onset of the pandemic, Instacart saw its online orders, revenue, and app store ratings increase exponentially. To help manage its pandemic growth, Instacart listed 166 new jobs by the end of March, up from 136 at the start of the year. By the end of the year, sales volume quadrupled and revenue hit $1.5 billion. Its valuation soon soared to $39 billion, up from $8 billion before the pandemic.

But as with any boom, there has to be a bust. Instacart saw its orders and profit sink back down as the pandemic dragged on. According to data from Bloomberg Second Measure, weekly sales from the last week of March to the first week of June fell by 16% compared with the same time in 2020.

Then came a weird move by Instacart’s founder and original CEO, Apoorva Mehta. When Simo started as CEO in July, Mehta made attempts to sell off the company to DoorDash, though the talks went nowhere. 

Instacart is also facing a revolt from its part-time workers. The company employs some 500,000 gig workers known as “shoppers” who pick out items in customers’ orders and deliver them, not unlike the business model used by the likes of Uber and DoorDash. Recently, however, the workers have complained about the removal of the commission pay model, which paid workers per item as opposed to a less lucrative flat rate, as well as the lack of benefits gig workers get compared to full time employees, such as health and occupational death benefits. Workers are now urging customers to delete the app, and a walk-off protest is planned for October 16. 

Instacart job listings

Despite all the controversy, Instacart is growing. According to our data, the company is in the midst of a hiring spree — last month, the company hit an all-time high of 299 listings. The current count of 292 listings represents a 19% increase in the past 3 months and a 97% increase from this time last year.

Originally Posted on October 6, 2021 – What’s Keeping Instacart Rolling to An IPO After an Aborted DoorDash Deal and Gig Worker Uprising

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