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Instacart's Unique IPO Twist: Tech Company Aims to Go Public as a Value Stock

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Instacart's Unique Path to Going Public as a Value Stock

Instacart, the online grocery startup that experienced a surge in sales during the Covid-19 pandemic, is now preparing to go public. However, the company's approach is unique as it aims to position itself as a value stock, focusing on careful management and maximizing results amidst potentially modest growth.

A Different Valuation Approach

In a departure from the typical high valuations seen in the tech sector, Instacart's enterprise valuation in its initial public offering (IPO) is relatively conservative. It is valued at around 15 to 16 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) for the 12 months ending in June. This is a significant contrast to the soaring valuations often associated with rapidly growing, yet barely profitable, IPO candidates.

Rekindling Sales Growth

Instacart faces the challenge of reigniting sales growth after experiencing a slowdown in the first half of this year, its first since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Analysts believe that the company needs to navigate this phase carefully and regain momentum. Despite the recent lull, Instacart's profitability has been on an upward trajectory, and its valuation reached $39 billion in a private financing round in 2021.

Competing with DoorDash

To evaluate Instacart's potential, analysts draw comparisons to DoorDash, another web-fueled food delivery business that went public in 2020. While DoorDash commands a higher valuation, Instacart's financials demonstrate similarities but at a fraction of the price. Instacart has generated positive EBITDA, with revenue primarily coming from transaction fees and advertising. The company's pitch revolves around its ability to contain costs as sales grow more slowly.

Future Growth and Valuation

Instacart's growth prospects depend on its ability to capture a larger share of the online grocery market, which currently represents only 12% of the $1.1 trillion Americans spend on groceries. The company believes this share can double, although the exact timeline remains unspecified. Analysts have varying opinions on Instacart's growth potential, with some projecting significant sales growth and others forecasting more conservative figures.

Cost Management and Profitability

Instacart's strategy revolves around containing costs and maintaining profitability as sales growth slows. With its unique business model, where store partners handle the buying and selling of food, Instacart's cost structure is primarily focused on running its platform and delivering packages. The company aims to reduce costs as a percentage of revenue and increase its EBITDA margin to 39%. In conclusion, Instacart's decision to go public as a value stock reflects a shift in the market and the company's focus on careful management and profitability. As investors evaluate Instacart's potential, the company's ability to reignite sales growth, navigate the competitive landscape, and capture a larger share of the online grocery market will be key factors in determining its future success.


Instacart's unique approach to going public as a value stock presents an interesting case study for new businesses. The company's focus on careful management and profitability, even amidst potentially modest growth, offers a different perspective on the traditional high-growth, high-burn startup model.

Implications for New Businesses

For startups, Instacart's strategy underscores the importance of sustainable growth and profitability. Rather than chasing high valuations, new businesses might consider focusing on building a solid financial foundation and demonstrating consistent profitability.
Lessons Learned
The key takeaway for new businesses is the importance of aligning business strategies with market realities and investor expectations. This includes understanding the market dynamics, managing costs effectively, and positioning the company for sustainable growth. In conclusion, Instacart's unique approach to going public as a value stock offers valuable insights for new businesses. By focusing on careful management and profitability, startups can position themselves for sustainable success, even in the face of potentially modest growth. As the market continues to evolve, it is crucial for new businesses to remain flexible and responsive to these changes.
Story First Published at: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/09/18/instacarts-biggest-ipo-twist-tech-trying-to-go-public-as-value-stock.html
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