Apoorva Mehta pauses for a moment to consider the past ten months of chaos. A year ago, he was running Instacart as a popular app that was gaining momentum. Then last spring came a massive Covid-fueled boost. Things quickly morphed into a nightmare: striking shoppers, inventory shortages and the challenge of meeting the kind of blistering demand Mehta wasn’t expecting until at least the next presidential election.
As it turns out, the tribulations of March were just the beginning. As the country’s leading grocery delivery app, Instacart is now besieged by a growing number of well-funded competitors. Mehta himself is under pressure to justify a valuation that more than doubled during those 10 months to $18 billion, a highly anticipated public offering and a strategy aimed at proving Amazon—when it comes to supermarkets, at least—has it all wrong. Understated and wonky, Mehta deftly sidesteps any hint of urgency.