The Unrelenting Drive of Apoorva Mehta

How He Built Instacart Into One of the World's Most Transformational Internet Companies

Hey! Justin here, and welcome to another premium edition of Just Go Grind. Free subscribers have complete access to 1-2 editions per month, while Premium subscribers get access to every edition, including audio versions, as well as our founder community and weekly office hours.

Sponsor Just Go Grind?

Just Go Grind has grown to nearly 22,000 subscribers, including some amazing founders, investors, and operators.

This week I announced that I’m ramping up Just Go Grind, publishing two editions per week, Thursdays and Sundays, for the foreseeable future.

With that, I’m looking for more amazing brands to partner with for sponsorships on a more frequent basis, recently updated my rates, and am now handling everything through an awesome platform called Passionfroot to make it easier for sponsors.

Want to work with me?

Learn more about sponsorship opportunities and my audience below:

Apoorva Mehta

Apoorva Mehta - Instacart

Apoorva Mehta tackled an incredibly difficult problem, same-day grocery delivery, and built Instacart into one of the most transformational internet companies of the last decade, creating a multi-billion dollar behemoth in the process.

To attack the same problem that led to one of the biggest failures of the dot-com era, Webvan, Apoorva, with the benefit of impeccable timing, took a different approach to solving the problem.

It paid off mightly.

But how did he succeed in solving a problem that even Amazon didn’t know was possible a decade ago?

And why was he the one to build this company?

Let’s get to it.

Early Days

Apoorva was born in India, but shortly after his birth in 1986, his family moved to Libya.

When he was 14, his family moved to Hamilton, a city in the Canadian province of Ontario where he saw his first Western grocery store.

It was a memorable experience, to say the least:

I had never seen so many Kit-Kats in my entire life. That was just a massive culture shock. I would be lying if I were to say that starting Instacart wasn’t a direct consequence of that.

Apoorva Mehta

There were more than just grocery stores that caught his attention.

For the first time, he had access to all sorts of technology:

When I moved to Hamilton, Ontario I was just thrilled to have access to all this technology. I started programming right away. I worked on autonomous cars. I didn't really know what type of technology I liked but I started picking up everything.

Apoorva Mehta

Apoorva would end up going to college at the University of Waterloo, studying electrical engineering, and spending a few months working at BlackBerry before taking a job at Amazon after graduating in 2008.

There, working as a supply-chain engineer, he gained valuable experience that would later help him start Instacart.

He enjoyed his time at Amazon and liked building software, but, two years in, he felt his learning had plateaued and he lacked the challenges he craved.

So what did he do?

He quit.

But not before spending his time at Amazon attending Seattle startup meetups, reading business books, and talking to as many founders and venture capitalists as he could.

Apoorva was a complete novice in the world of entrepreneurship and these meetups and discussions proved incredibly valuable.

They also showed him where the place to be was - San Francisco.

So he left:

I packed my bags, told my friends goodbye and moved to San Francisco, a city where all I knew were two people. Lucky for me those two people also had a couch.

Apoorva Mehta

2 Years of Exploration

Apoorva didn’t waste any time when he arrived in SF:

After I moved to San Francisco, I found a co-founder and we got to work. We weren't picky about a particular vertical or market, so we were very flexible about the ideas that we wanted to try.

One week we would work on something like an analytics platform for advertisers, another week we would do a groupon for food, and for each one of these products we would try to get traction with the customers.

Around this time we must have built 20 products or so but the results were always the same. Failed product after failed product after failed product.

Apoorva Mehta

One of the ideas that showed the most promise was a social network for lawyers.

For this company, Apoorva and his co-founder raised about $1 million in funding, but after a year he learned a very important lesson:

Subscribe to Just Go Grind Premium to read the rest.

Become a paying subscriber of Just Go Grind Premium to get access to this post and other subscriber-only content.

Already a paying subscriber? Sign In

A subscription gets you:
Premium subscriber-only editions
Weekly live strategy sessions with other founders
Private podcast feed
Justin's unending gratitude

Join the conversation

or to participate.