Instacart hires Facebook executive as new CEO ahead of expected IPO

Instacart has appointed Facebook executive Fidji Simo as its new CEO, just seven months after she joined the grocery delivery company’s board of directors. Simo, formerly the vice president and head of the Facebook app, will replace Instacart founder and current CEO Apoorva Mehta on August 2. Mehta will transition to executive chairman of the board, per a statement from Instacart.

Instacart declined on behalf of Simo for request to provide further comment.

Women of color chief executives at the forefront of billion-dollar businesses are still an unfortunately rare occurrence. Simo is the co-founder of Women in Product, a nonprofit organization that works to empower women in product management, as well as advance and advocate for women’s careers in tech. The transition marks that Facebook has lost one of its few female leaders, and Instacart has a new energy as it plans to increase its head count by 50% in 2021.

The departure of Mehta from his role so close to an expected IPO is as notable as it is rare. Mehta founded Instacart 10 years ago, incubating it through Y Combinator’s 2012 summer batch to its most recent valuation of $39 billion.

The pandemic spotlighted Instacart’s purpose, as millions of people around the world faced quarantines and limited in-person interactions, including trips to the grocery store. The increased consumer spending on for-delivery services led Instacart to hire hundreds of thousands of workers, as well as launch same-day delivery on a variety of products beyond avocados — including electronics, sports equipment and prescription medicine

The growth hasn’t come without controversy. Instacart joined Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Postmates as major backers for Proposition 22, a measure that would classify gig workers as independent contractors, limiting the types of benefits that they could receive. Prop 22 eventually passed, which could be seen as beneficial to Instacart executives and detrimental to the shoppers who make the deliveries. The event happened after years of protests, class-action lawsuits over wages and tipping debacles in which Instacart was scrutinized for unfair policies toward its shoppers.

Simo obviously has experience working at controversial companies, thanks to her decade at Facebook. Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg replied to Simo’s announcement in a comment on the platform.

“Fidji — I’m immensely grateful for the impact you’ve had on Facebook over the last 10 years,” Sandberg wrote. “You’ve worn so many hats leading the Facebook App — all while advocating for gender equality in the tech community. I’m so proud to see where you’re headed. Cheering you on!”

Instacart describes Simo as a “core driver of Facebook’s mobile monetization strategy” and the leader behind the architecture of Facebook’s advertising business. The executive helped scale Facebook as it grew from 1,000 to 100,000 employees, and through its transition to the public markets — experience that may mesh well with Instacart’s ambitions to eventually go public.

Her rise to chief executive comes as the pandemic winds down and parts of the world begin to reopen, which will likely signal a new chapter about how Instacart conducts business and faces new challenges on how the business stays relevant.

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