Oct 28, 2021: The Information’s Creator Economy Summit

Entertainment

Instacart’s Simo Hiring Caps Management Overhaul

Instacart’s hiring of Facebook’s Fidji Simo as CEO is a masterful stroke by the grocery delivery app, capping six months of executive hiring that has built out its management team ahead of an expected public debut later this year. It speaks well of Apoorva Mehta that he made way for Simo, a sign that he knows that building Instacart into a much bigger business will require expertise beyond his own. 

It’s not often you see a CEO replacement like this in the absence of obvious problems. Many, if not most, of the high profile and recently public consumer-tech firms are still run by their founders—I’m thinking of Snap, DoorDash, Pinterest, Roku, Airbnb, Lyft and Dropbox, to name a few. To assure Wall Street of their experience before an IPO, tech firms are more likely to bring in veteran CFOs or no. 2s, or to beef up their boards. 

Instacart has done those things as well! Former Netflix and Spotify CFO Barry McCarthy and Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman joined the board earlier this year, as did Simo. (Slootman, by the way, is the rare example of a CEO who was hired to replace the incumbent before the company went public). Among the star executives hired was Nick Giovanni, previously a top tech dealmaker at Goldman Sachs, as CFO. 

Instacart hasn’t yet disclosed its financial statements—we’ll have to wait for the public listing for those—so it’s possible the business is struggling out of public view. That wouldn’t be a huge surprise: Instacart faces lots of competition, from Uber, DoorDash and even grocers themselves in a market where growth has likely slowed sharply as the pandemic ebbed. For Instacart, building up newer businesses like advertising are vital—but challenging. Instacart is competing for ad dollars with Amazon and regular grocery chains, not to mention Facebook, Google and even old media. This is where some of Instacart's recent hires should help, as we explain here. 

One challenge Mehta and Simo face is ensuring the brand-new management team meshes. How star executives, like Giovanni, react to their new boss is a question. It should help that some of the new team are former colleagues of Simo’s: Instacart’s COO since February has been Asha Sharma, who was previously vice president of product for Facebook. There are plenty of other former Facebookers, along with others hired from Google, Uber and Amazon. How well Mehta and Simo end up getting along with each other will also be in the spotlight. It would be a pity if a company so seemingly well-positioned goes off the rails amid internal feuding. 

MARKET SELL OFF

The markets are getting jittery again, as worries grow about the economy. On Thursday, the S&P 500 lost nearly 1% while the Nasdaq fell 0.7%. Most major tech stocks lost ground, although Amazon was an exception. The ecommerce giant, whose stock has been an underperformer for most of the year, has got a new lease on life in the past week, as investors applaud new CEO Andy Jassy.

Otherwise though, the news was not good. Here are the details, courtesy of Koyfin:

  • Alphabet -1.1%
  • Amazon +1%
  • Facebook -1.4%
  • Microsoft -0.9%
  • Apple -0.9%
  • Snap -4.9%
  • Pinterest -2.3%
  • Zoom -2%
  • Uber -2.3%
  • Didi - 5.9%

COMCAST’S HALF AND HALF LICENSING STRATEGY

The streaming market’s race to lock up star content passed another milestone today, as Comcast’s Universal struck a deal to license newly released movies to Amazon’s Prime Video and IMDB streaming services, Deadline reported. The movies will appear on those services after they’ve streamed on Comcast’s own Peacock service for four months, as was announced earlier this week. 

Until now, Universal’s movies have appeared on HBO Max, which is now a competitor in the streaming market to Peacock. But that arrangement, a relic of the cable TV days when Universal didn’t have a premium cable channel, is ending. Got all that?

Basically Comcast is trying to have its cake and eat it too. It wants to buff up the appeal of Peacock while at the same time continuing to make money licensing its films other streaming outlets. It’s a risky strategy. If you’re not a huge fan of Peacock, you might just wait and see the film on Amazon. Disney and WarnerMedia, in contrast, have gone for broke: Films made by Warner can only be streamed on HBO Max, for example.

But to take that approach, Comcast would have to be willing to go all in on Peacock, something it so far hasn’t shown a willingness to do. 

IN OTHER NEWS…

  • Longtime senior Googler, Urs Hölzle, plans to work remotely from New Zealand, CNET reported.
  • Zomato, the Indian food delivery company backed by China’s Ant Group and Uber, is planning an initial public offering that would value the startup at nearly $8 billion, the company said in a regulatory filing.
  • Circle, a backer of the USD Coin stablecoin, is going public via a SPAC merger, valuing it at $4.5 billion. More details in our Crypto Global newsletter here. 

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Martin Peers is the managing editor of The Information, where he has worked since 2014. He previously worked for The Wall Street Journal and Daily Variety, among other publications. He is based in New York and is on Twitter @mvpeers.