As Instacart looks to cut its valuation, will it kick off a trend?

2021's rich valuations could put some unicorns in a hiring jam

Instacart is not done making news.

Earlier this week, the well-known grocery delivery unicorn announced a software suite as part of a self-described third act. Today, Bloomberg reported that Instacart reduced its valuation from around $39 billion to $24 billion, representing a roughly 38.5% reduction in the company’s worth.

Commentary indicates that the company’s new “valuation” was set by a 409a price change, not a decrease in the value of preferred shares sold in its last round. The nuance at play here is that 409a valuations are set by third parties – Carta does this work for customers, as an example – and not startups or their venture investors, resulting in a more objective price by some measures. That said, what we presume to be a newly set 409a valuation for Instacart does matter.

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The valuation change fits into the larger trend of the value of high-growth technology companies flagging in recent months. From late-2021 highs, the public markets have slashed the value of tech companies large and small, SaaS and otherwise. Instacart, which has a number of public comps thanks to IPOs from DoorDash and Uber, lives in a world where it can directly compare its worth to floating concerns.

The Exchange dug into the Instacart valuation change and has a few notes on the company’s current trajectory. The changing public market issue is only one theme at play in Instacart’s smaller valuation. The other is human talent. Let’s explore.

$24 billion is the new $39 billion

Instacart said that it set a number of records in 2021, including order volume, gross transaction volume, revenue and gross profit. The company also has more than $1 billion in cash and equivalents in the bank, so it’s far from low on capital.

Bloomberg also reported that the company saw $1.8 billion in 2021 revenues, up from prior reporting that the company was on target for $1.65 billion in top-line last year. At the higher figure, and Instacart’s new valuation, the company sports a 13.3x trailing revenue multiple. (Note that this is a more conservative metric than an ARR multiple that we calculate for pure software companies.) At the company’s prior $39 billion price tag, its 2021 revenues would have given it a far greater 21.7x multiple.

Instacart is not the only grocery-delivery company that has seen its revenue multiple decline in recent months.

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