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Instacart’s new CEO on Facebook, women’s health, and the future of grocery delivery

October 5, 2021, 12:14 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Rent the Runway files for an IPO, New Zealand abandons its zero-COVID strategy, and new Instacart CEO Fidji Simo is used to being slightly out of place. Have a great Tuesday.

This morning’s guest essay comes to us from Fortune senior writer Maria Aspan:

– Outsider advantage. When Facebook alum Fidji Simo became CEO of grocery-delivery startup Instacart this summer, she inherited several thorny leadership challenges. The company is trying to prepare for an IPO while its massive pandemic growth spurt is petering off. Some of its 500,000 gig-economy “shoppers” are unhappy and threatening to walk off the job over their pay and working conditions. And—oh, yeah—Simo left Facebook to become CEO just as her predecessor, Instacart founder Apoorva Mehta, was trying to sell his company to DoorDash.

It all made for a chaotic job transition this summer for Simo, who is on Fortune’s 2021 list of Most Powerful Women Ones to Watch. But, as I discovered when I profiled her for our October/November 2021 issue, the native of France and former head of Facebook’s app is used to being slightly out of place—in Silicon Valley, at Facebook, and now among the ranks of IPO-bound tech executives. In fact, Simo appears to be one of the few female CEOs whom the most powerful venture investors seem to trust to replace a male founder, and to take a unicorn startup public. Women ran only 8.5% of all venture-backed companies that filed for IPOs between 2016 and 2020, according to PitchBook. 

Simo is getting this opportunity after a decade at Facebook, where she was head of the flagship app until July—and where, especially for the past two years, she’s publicly defended the social media giant amid its many metastasizing scandals. At Facebook, “we could have done a better job predicting the ways in which things could go wrong,” she told me.

SIM.11.21.Fidji Simo Instacart CEO
Instacart is betting that its new CEO, Fidji Simo, a former Facebook executive and retail newcomer, can push its business beyond grocery delivery and toward an IPO.
Photograph by Kelsey McClellan

She’ll have to be more proactive at Instacart, which she now says has “no intention” of seeking another buyer. “We are very, very excited about running an independent company for the long run,” she says.

But getting Instacart ready for its IPO isn’t the only challenge Simo is taking on. For the past year, she’s spent her weekends cofounding a women’s health startup called The Metrodora Institute, which will treat and research neuroimmune health conditions that primarily affect women. It’s a deeply personal project for Simo, who has suffered from endometriosis since she was a teenager, and who’s all too familiar with how difficult it is for women to have their health concerns taken seriously.

“If you start believing women, and you start believing that they’re not crazy every time they say they have pain somewhere, you can improve health outcomes,” Simo says. “Women’s health is such a taboo. But if I don’t talk about it, with all the privilege I have, then no one’s going to talk about it.”

Read the full profile of Fidji Simo here, and read more about Metrodora here.

Maria Aspan
maria.aspan@fortune.com
@mariaaspan

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The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Rent the IPO. Rent the Runway, led by CEO Jennifer Hyman, filed for an IPO yesterday, revealing that the pandemic slashed subscriptions from 147,866 in 2019 to 95,245 in 2020; revenue fell from $256.9 million to $157.5 million in that time frame. Customers have started to come back in 2021, the S-1 says. CNBC

- New strategy. New Zealand is easing its lockdown as the country ends its "zero-COVID strategy," which has proven to be less effective against the Delta variant. Instead, the government will now aim to "actively control the virus," says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. WSJ

- #SheWasWalkingHome. The murder of Sarah Everard in London led to rifts among feminists fighting violence against women. When law enforcement advised women not to walk alone at night, some were angered by the suggestion they had to limit their personal freedoms as a safety measure. With protest sizes restricted due to the coronavirus, activists sparred, too, over whether to abide by law enforcement's rules. Vanity Fair

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: FanDuel named Amy Howe its new chief executive; she had been serving as interim CEO. Kelly Campbell left her position as president of HuluSheila Patel, B Capital Group vice chair, joins the board of Antler. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- HeLa lawsuit. The Henrietta Lacks estate this week sued the biotech company Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. The estate says that the business has continued to profit from HeLa cells long after the origin of those cells, taken from Lacks, a Black woman, without her consent, has been known. The company hasn't commented on the suit. AP

- PM and president. In a new memoir, former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt says that Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former president of France, groped her at a dinner in the early 2000s. The Danish PM writes that the intrusion would "these days be seen as sexual harassment," but at the time, she was "very angry" and got up to find a new seat. France24

- Changing of the guard. Last month, all three soldiers to preside over a changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were women. Sgt. 1st Class Chelsea Porterfield was the first woman to be sergeant of the guard, and as she left her post, officers arranged for two other female soldiers to participate in the ceremony. Task & Purpose

ON MY RADAR

Action movies are evolving. These three women are leading the way Men's Health

Giving birth in the end times The Cut

Biden administration reverses Trump rule barring federally funded family planning clinics from abortion referrals Washington Post

PARTING WORDS

"How many more times are we going to have to do this?"

-Peggy Crull, 75, reading a text she received while protesting for abortion rights this weekend. She's featured in this Lily story about women who fought for reproductive freedom before Roe v. Wade and now. 

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