Keeping financial tabs on Instacart as it preps its IPO

Instacart’s willingness to go public this year is now slightly better understood after The Wall Street Journal reported that the grocery delivery giant isn’t planning on a mega-fundraise when it does list.

While the mechanics of a company’s public debut have only so much variation — direct listings and traditional IPOs both result in a newly public company, after all — Instacart’s plans provide us with useful hints about its recent financial history.

That Instacart is expected to go public this year at all is a minor miracle; the U.S. market for new technology listings has been moribund for quarters now. The slack IPO market is a marked shift from the active 2020-2021 period that saw a good number of startups and unicorns — private-market companies worth $1 billion or more — list when investors had bid the value of tech shares to new heights.

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Prices have since come down, at times sharply from pandemic-induced highs. Most tech upstarts are holding back on public listings in response, presumably concerned about matching final private-market valuations in an IPO or other form of flotation.