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The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Instacart filed "confidentially" a draft registration statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a first step in the process of an initial public offering (IPO).

The New York Times explains that a confidential filing means that "it does not yet have to disclose certain data about the company. The filing does not require Instacart to follow through with an initial public offering, but it is considered a big step toward one."

From the Journal coverage:

"The filing comes as Instacart’s growth slows following a pandemic-fueled boom, when people turned to the company’s app to order groceries online rather than going to physical stores. The company raised more than $265 million in March 2021 from investors at a $39 billion valuation. It became the biggest grocery delivery company, counting supermarket giants Kroger Co. and Walmart Inc. as customers. Instacart also began delivering from nonfood retailers like Best Buy Co. and expanded its advertising business, an effort to boost sales and offset costs associated with delivery."

Instacart recently cut its valuation by 40 percent, a reflection of the degree to which its growth has slowed.

And, the Times writes:  "If Instacart does go public, it will be doing so at a risky time. Wall Street, spooked by inflation and the war in Ukraine, has been cool to tech stocks in recent months, and the number of I.P.O.s fell 80 percent from a year earlier as of May 4, according to Renaissance Capital."

The Times also notes that Instacart has been engaged in discussions with both DoorDash and Uber about a potential acquisition of Instacart last year."

The Financial Times writes that "increased competition from the likes of Amazon, which has invested heavily in its grocery delivery operation through Whole Foods, and rapid delivery apps such as Gopuff have placed Instacart in a considerably more crowded market."

FT also writes that the company's CEO, Fidji Simo, "has positioned Instacart as a friend to existing grocery store players and has pledged to never carry its own inventory, unlike its rivals. The company partners with 70,000 stores and a range of retailers that represents 80 per cent of the US grocery industry."

Simo wrote in a blog posting yesterday that, “At Instacart, we believe the future of grocery belongs to those that invented it — not tech goliaths or newcomers trying to drive grocers out of business.”

KC's View:

Buckle up.  I'm about to say something nice about Instacart…

To be fair about this, Instacart - which did an extraordinary job of stepping up to the plate during a pandemic in which retailers desperately needed a company to which it could outsource e-grocery functionality - seems to be pivoting to a business model that depends on stronger and more sustainable partnerships with client retailers.

They're pledging not to become a retailer.  They're offering a platform to retailers that does not give away all of their shopper data (which for me always was the problem with Instacart's model).  And they're acknowledging that the after-times will not be the same as the halcyon e-grocery days of the pandemic.

I can't say that all my skepticism has vanished.  But there does seem to be a transition taking place.