Apoorva Mehta was 25 years old when he founded Instacart. Today, the online grocery delivery company is valued at more than $3 billion with more than 10,000 part-time shoppers delivering groceries in hundreds of cities across the country.
I asked Mehta if he ever thought about leadership issues in those early days of starting Instacart. “Not at all,” he says, smiling. “I never thought of myself as a leader. I was just doing what was required.”
As Instacart grew, Mehta started to think more about the qualities of great leaders. He says one thing he has learned is the importance of self-introspection. “As a founder and CEO, your company tends to reflect your personality,” he says. “For the company to be the best version of you, you have to make sure you are really honing into your strengths and making sure you complement that by hiring some amazing people who can be better than you at your weaknesses.”
Before launching Instacart in 2012, Mehta worked at Amazon. While it may not have been clear back then, those years in Seattle greatly influenced him. As a supply chain engineer, not only did Mehta learn about how the online giant delivered packages from its warehouses to customers’ doors quickly and efficiently, he also observed the spectacular way Amazon chief Jeff Bezos led the company. Now at 30 years old, Mehta says Bezos and Apple founder Steve Jobs have been role models for him.
“From Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos, the biggest thing that I have learned is to not to conform,” says Mehta. “In fact one of our company values at Instacart is called ‘Of course, but maybe.’ It sort of emphasizes the fact that of course this is the way things have been done before, but maybe if you use new technologies or look at the problem in a different way, you can come up with a solution that’s much, much better.”
Mehta recently raised nearly half a billion dollars from Andreesen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins, and other prominent venture capital investors. Looks like those Silicon Valley heavyweights are betting big on Mehta’s brand of leadership.