Grocery delivery app Instacart is one of those companies that most of the world probably does not need. Like Uber, or Birchbox, or Evernote, I thought, this is a luxury service that someone on a journalists salary (ahem, me) shouldn’t use. It’s simply not necessary. But then you use it and it’s so damn easy and nice, and the little payments just seamlessly slip out of your bank account without your hardly noticing, and suddenly, a big company is built.
I haven’t had the chance to use Instacart yet since the four-month-old service is only available in San Francisco, Mountain View and Palo Alto. (Refreshingly, it is already available on Android.) But from the glowing reviews I’ve read, it’s pretty good. Good enough to let Y Combinator break precedent and admit the startup into its program two months after the application deadline, thanks to founder Apoorva Mehta sending YC partner Garry Tan a six pack of beer with the app. (Cue the barrage of weird attention-getting applications to YC partners.)
The company, as you may have read in the tech press, works as such: you pick out which groceries you want out of a selection of 25,000 on the app, and within an hour, someone delivers them for $14.99 plus whatever they cost. For $3.99 you can get the groceries within 3 hours. A delivery person texts you with the exact time you can expect the groceries. Pretty slick.
Behind the scenes, Instacart has recruited a team of 40 delivery people “from other delivery jobs” to go get the groceries from a partner store (just Safeway for now), pay for them like normal, and deliver them. They get reimbursed through the app and don’t work full time yet, but as usage increases, that’s the hope.
Mehta says he decided to go to the web after he noticed orders increasing in size. Most users order 17-20 items, rather than the three or four he expected. For someone to use Instacart for an entire week’s worth of groceries, they probably want to do it on a larger screen. The web and mobile apps sync, of course, and a running list of items can be added throughout the week and the order placed when you’re ready for it.
Everyone is going to the web, apparently. Even web-averse Instagram. Your move, Path.
Since graduating from Y Combinator this summer, Instacart has raised $2.3 million from Canaan Partners Khosla Ventures, YC, SV Angels and Andreessen Horowitz. Its goal is to be “the Amazon.com of grocery.”