MOST IN­NO­VA­TIVE COM­PA­NIES

Fast Company - - Contents - —CLAIRE DOD­SON

The lat­est from In­stacart, Bandier, Lyft, and more.

Ama­zon’s an­nounce­ment last June of its plan to buy Whole Foods served as a wake-up call to gro­cers that the threat of e-com­merce could no longer be ig­nored. And gro­cery-de­liv­ery startup In­stacart, known for its same-day de­liv­ery from big-box su­per­mar­kets, was ready to help. In Fe­bru­ary, the com­pany closed a $200 mil­lion fund­ing round, which it will use to beef up its dig­i­tal lo­gis­tics tools, dou­ble the size of its cor­po­rate team, and help bring more gro­cers—both big and small—onto its plat­form. “This in­dus­try has been wait­ing for a cat­a­lyst and a change mo­ment for a long time,” says In­stacart’s chief busi­ness of­fi­cer, Nilam Ga­nen­thi­ran. “We’re very thank­ful to the folks up in Seat­tle for help­ing drive [our growth].”

Since Ama­zon’s big buy, In­stacart has signed on large gro­cers such as Kroger and Al­bert­sons, while ex­pand­ing its ex­ist­ing part­ner­ship with Costco. In­stacart has long pitched it­self as a “best friend” to re­tail­ers. Now, that an­gle is even more ap­peal­ing to gro­cers ea­ger to em­brace mo­bile or­der­ing and de­liv­ery while In­stacart fig­ures out the nitty-gritty lo­gis­tics. The com­pany now part­ners with six out of seven of the largest gro­cery stores in the U.S. and is in more than 210 North Amer­i­can mar­kets. Its mem­ber base tripled last year, Ga­nen­thi­ran says. In­stacart is draw­ing on the breadth of its lo­cal part­ner­ships to bet­ter com­pete with Ama­zon, which re­cently be­gan test­ing same-day de­liv­ery of Whole Foods gro­ceries to Prime mem­bers. “The con­nec­tions that re­tail­ers have made in their com­mu­ni­ties are so im­por­tant if you’re try­ing to get cus­tomers to buy gro­ceries on­line,” Ga­nen­thi­ran says. “We’re find­ing we can be a great com­ple­ment to what these re­tail­ers al­ready have.”

Mile­stones This spring, In­stacart ac­quired Toronto de­liv­ery startup Unata to help de­velop its voice­order­ing and coupon-cir­cu­la­tion tech­nol­ogy, as well as help it delve deeper into in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

Chal­lenges Be­cause of its scale, Ama­zon has the abil­ity to of­fer re­duced prices on pro­duce and its two-hour de­liv­ery, which is free for Prime mem­bers. Buzz

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