Instacart nabs Google execs as VPs of engineering and corp dev, acqui-hires MightySignal

After raising $600 million at a $7.6 billion valuation a few weeks ago, Instacart is doubling down on expanding its talent pool to square up against Amazon and others with ambitions in online grocery ordering and delivery.

The company has appointed Varouj Chitilian as it first VP of engineering and Dave Sobota as its first VP of corporate development — both of whom were poached from Google. On top of this, on Friday Instacart also quietly announced that it was making an acqui-hire, picking up the entire team behind the mobile app analytics startup MightySignal to join their engineering group.

Chitilian started last week after 12 years at Google and had been a director of engineering working most recently on consumer payments services like Google Pay, and on advertising services before that.

Sobota is also a longtime Google veteran, and he’ll be joining Instacart on November 12 after 13 years with the search giant. At Google, he also held a corporate development role and has a background as an M&A lawyer.

In both cases, the hires underscore how Instacart continues to ramp up its executive team both to continue expanding its footprint in North America — Instacart says that its service now works with 15,000 stores and 70,000 “shoppers” in 4,000 cities and is accessible by 70 percent of U.S. customers — as well as to build more services to serve areas where it is already active.

They also come in the wake of Instacart hiring GoFundMe and LinkedIn vet David Hahn as its chief product officer in May; PR supremo Dani Dudeck as chief communications officer in July; and Mark Schaaf, another Google vet, as CTO in September. (Chitilian will be reporting to Schaaf, while Sobota will report to COO Ravi Gupta.)

Instacart has positioned itself as a non-competitive partner to grocery stores in the U.S. that want to provide an online shopping and delivery experience to customers, but might lack the infrastructure and technical firepower to build something like that in-house.

Both Instacart and these grocery chains have a common rival, Amazon, which is not only natively a digital commerce company, with all the logistics firepower that comes with that, but it has specifically made huge leaps in its own food delivery ambitions, first when it launched its own Prime-friendly Pantry and Fresh lines, and second when it acquired and expanded Whole Foods. (That’s before you consider what it’s doing in physical stores and its restaurant and meal-kit delivery businesses.)

So even with partners in the grocery world — Instacart has secured partnerships with branches of Walmart in the U.S. and Canada, Kroger, ALDI, Sam’s Club, Albertsons and more — Instacart is still locked in a race on the other side of its marketplace as it works to convince consumers to opt for online purchasing and deliveries, and then to use Instacart and its partners instead of Amazon.

In that regard, the tech and products that Instacart builds — and the partnerships it strikes with partners and potential acquisitions — will be crucial to getting this right, and building a substantial business that will be valuable in the long run.

That’s where the MightySignal team acqui-hire also comes in. Instacart is not saying much about what the six will be working on at the company, except to note that they will be a part of the Growth team and will “build customer engagement-focused product features that delight new and existing Instacart customers across the U.S. and Canada.”

Shane Wey, the co-founder and CEO of MightySignal who is now a director of engineering at Instacart, declined to say what will happen to the MightySignal product.