TechCrunch has learned that Mike Swartz, an operations veteran from Amazon who joined Instacart in February last year, has left the company. Instacart confirmed the departure.
The departure comes at a time when Instacart is working out its place in the world after dealing with some controversy, including changing its tipping procedures that led to shopper backlash. Instacart operates in a challenging ecosystem that relies on slicing off margins of a delivery business while still keeping its shoppers and customers happy. And because on-demand delivery is such a complicated web of partnerships, technology and managing a large delivery network, it needs to ensure that the operation continues to run smoothly.
To be sure departures at startups — especially as they scale — aren’t out of the norm. While Swartz is no longer there, Instacart just hired Cheryl Law as its chief marketing officer in January. Law was most recently the chief marketing officer of Prosper Marketplace. It’s likely that the role won’t be empty for long, as it recently raised $400 million at a $3.4 billion valuation in March and now appears to have a fresh vote of confidence from the venture community. That will go a long way toward bringing in fresh talent (and the cash obviously won’t hurt).
Instacart’s revenue comes from multiple places, including programs with partners like Whole Foods and delivery fees. But that all requires a careful balancing act to ensure that it is able to price competitively enough that it can convince consumers that they should just order their food through an app rather than going to a store. And it also has to convince potential partners of the opportunity to advertise products through Instacart.
Still, losing Swartz may be a bit of a hit for Instacart. Swartz was at Amazon for nearly a decade at Amazon and joined as Instacart’s first VP of operations. For a company that needs to operate as efficiently and seamlessly as possible if it’s going to to prove that an on-demand delivery business can be a viable independent company, it’s going to need a strong stable of executives with experience in the space.