When you want to do something passionately, there is a feeling of falling in love, which you cannot shrug off. This is what happened with Apoorva Mehta who started 20 companies but fell in love with this one idea that changed his life. He founded Instacart and changed the way people buy groceries.
Born in Canada, Apoorva was curious to understand everything about technology; from atoms to what comes on computer screen after typing google.com. He decided to study electrical engineering and graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2008.
Apoorva spent his post-college years working with Amazon where he developed fulfilment systems to deliver the package from Amazon’s warehouse to the customer’s doors. After working for two years, he noticed that his learning had become stagnant and he was not being challenged at work.
Apoorva wanted to bring materialistic change in the world and he understood that it would not come into being if he works for a bigger company. The only way his plan would eventuate was by being an entrepreneur. He knew nothing about business as he was always a computer geek. So, he started attending tech meetups in order to understand the work.
Apoorva was unable to understand anything at first. However, he liked every part of it, which made his belief stronger that he was going in the right direction. There were many ideas he wanted to put up to make his own company but was unable to do it because he was still working in Amazon. That was the time he decided to quit. Apoorva had nothing in mind about the startup. All he knew was that he wanted to do it.
Soon after, he moved to San Francisco where he just had one friend. For two years, Apoorva’s address was a couch at his friend’s place. He used to think about ideas and write codes for his new startup. Initially, it was fun and interesting for him but eventually he started getting exasperated. He was disappointed with his failures. In two years, he started 20 companies but none of them worked.
After a few months, Apoorva came up with a plan for the startup. The idea was to make a social network of lawyers. He raised a million dollars as finance but after a year, Apoorva started feeling uninterested. The lawyers, their work, and anything about them did not matter to him at all. He sensed that he was going in the wrong direction. He quit his own startup. His investors lost a million dollars and this brought a very low phase in his life.
The next few months were a challenge. He did not have any income, and was an immigrant as he had limited time to stay in America. His mother was going through health issues and he could not help in any way. That was the worst phase of Apoorva’s life. But he did not give up. He decided to flip the situation and worked hard.
Apoorva wanted to do something he actually cared about, something that was close to home. Since childhood, the one thing he hated was grocery shopping, buying things, waiting in the queue, and lifting heavy bags. Every aspect of it was painful for him. He discovered that he did everything online; from buying books, to meeting people, and even watching TV. However, he was still doing one thing in the most inefficient way, which he hated his entire life! And there was the problem he actually cared about, and was passionate in solving it.
Apoorva was 26 when he made the grocery delivery app called Instacart in 2010. The company was just him and a few friends using the app. After some months, he started getting a few customers and he appointed a couple of employees to deliver groceries. However, Apoorva did not earn anything from the company, as he had to pay the workers. That was when he started looking for finance.
He wanted to apply in an incubator called YCombinator but could not succeed because he missed the deadline by two months. Nevertheless, Apoorva kept his hopes high. He sent a six-pack of beer using Instacart’s delivery service to one of the partners named Garry Tan, which got him a meeting. The next day he got a call and that is how Instacart was funded. They started making tie-ups with grocery stores to make the work easier.
In 2012, Apoorva found two cofounders for his company – Max Mullen and Brandon Leonardo (see the photo above). Today, Instacart is worth a whopping $3.4 billion! Apoorva comes in the list of Forbes richest people under 40 and his company services 36 markets, with 1,200 cities in 25 states and employs more than 50 people working full time. More than 1,000 independent shoppers are under contract. The company was named as “the most promising company in America” by Forbes.
Apoorva’s journey in making Instacart is very inspiring. It teaches you to do what you actually care about. Failure comes in every step but what matters is how you stand against the odds and work towards your goals.
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