TechCrunch doesn’t tend to cover personnel changes because the startup world is sufficiently massive as to render any particular job changes too small for our lens. However, Instacart this morning announced a slew of promotions inside of its senior leadership, and given that the company filed for an IPO — albeit privately — we’re paying extra attention.
Briefly, the U.S. grocery-delivery giant promoted Daniel Danker and Laura Jones, vice presidents of product and marketing, to chief product officer and chief marketing officer, respectively. Given that Instacart is prepping for a public debut, getting its C-suite in order makes sense. In that vein, the multi-unicorn is also promoting its vice president of engineering, Varouj Chitilian, to the CTO role. Prior CTO Mark Schaaf is leaving the company for what Instacart described in a phone call as a break of sorts.
The company also shook up its business division. Recall that Instacart has a few revenue lines, including delivery, a software platform that it offers to grocery chains, and advertising business. Instacart also announced today that it is unifying its grocery business and ads business under its newly promoted chief business officer Chris Rogers, its prior vice president of retail.
Why do we care about Instacart bringing ads more closely to its grocery business? Because search advertising is a big damn market. And when you are grocery shopping and want to add a particular good to your cart, you are executing a search.
This means that the same forces that powered Google to search dominance — and provided a huge tailwind to Amazon — are at play inside of Instacart’s service. In simple terms, high-intent customers searching for goods to buy is the precise place where advertisers want to flaunt their wares. So, it makes sense to have the ads team and the grocery team working in unison — they are somewhat the same project, albeit with different search results as their main remit.
We’re counting down until Instacart’s IPO filing drops the private tag and flips public. When will that happen? It’s not clear. The IPO market today is more barred window than open portal, which means that our normal methods of calculating when a company may go public do not work. We’re stuck waiting. But when we do get that document, we’ll be hunting through it for notes on Instacart’s revenue mix and per-business line gross margins, along with the usual growth and profit material we observe for every company.
Can Instacart’s software and advertising work improve its overall gross margin profile? Can those business lines provide growth levers in excess of simply driving more GMV through the service? That’s Rogers’ job now. Let’s see how he performs in the expanded role.