Meet the 14 execs leading Instacart's push to build an advertising business that rivals Amazon and Walmart

  • Instacart has exploded over the past year as people shift to online grocery delivery in the pandemic.
  • It’s trying to build an advertising business on the back of its digital audience and rival Amazon and Walmart.
  • Insider identified 14 execs there who are key to building its ad business.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Instacart has big advertising ambitions that have grown during the pandemic.

The grocery delivery app has become red-hot as online shopping has taken off. It recently raised $200 million, valuing the company at $17.7 billion, and is rumored to be mulling an IPO.

Instacart plans to use some of that funding to grow its advertising business, which launched in earnest last year and lets brands buy ads on Instacart’s platforms based on what people are looking for, similar to Amazon. Instacart said it’s grown its base of advertisers in the past year by 5X to 1,000 packaged-goods makers, including Kraft Heinz, General Mills, Unilever, and P&G.

To build this business, Instacart is aggressively hiring from tech companies and retail experts — including several big names from Amazon. Its careers page shows 33 open sales roles as well as ad-focused positions like a VP of product. Its leadership team includes three top advertising execs: Seth Dallaire, Ryan Mayward, and Vik Gupta.

“It’s like they’re building an adtech company instead of a grocery business,” said Andrea Leigh, VP of strategy and insights at Ideoclick, an e-commerce agency that helps manufacturers and brands sell on online marketplaces.

It’s not alone, of course — Amazon dominates the market, and big retailers like Walmart, Walgreens, and Target are also trying to get a piece $17.4 billion ad pie, as measured by eMarketer. 

Insider spoke with e-commerce advertisers, agencies, and tech firms to identify 14 Instacart execs, listed alphabetically below, leading its bet on advertising.

Nour Alkhatib, product manager of ads

Alkhatib’s job is to build ads that reach lucrative grocery shoppers without annoying them. Her team talks with Instacart users to create advertising products, including its API, and develops new ad features and strategies.

After features launch, she measures their success and collects feedback. She also analyzes competitors’ retail media networks. 

She joined Instacart in 2020 after working in product and engineering roles at Flipp and Oracle.

Sri Batchu, head of advertising of strategy and operations

The financial exec turned advertising exec pulls Instacart’s product, operations, business development, engineering, finance and analytics teams together to develop advertising initiatives and identify Instacart’s short- and long-term advertising ambitions.

Batchu joined Instacart in 2020 after serving as VP of operations at online real estate company Opendoor. He was also an investor and worked at The Invus Group, Universal Music, and Bain Capital.

Seth Dallaire, chief revenue officer

Dallaire helped build Amazon into an advertising powerhouse before joining Instacart in 2019 as its first CRO.

He’s tasked with building out Instacart’s non-subscription businesses including advertising and insights. He has expanded Instacart’s ad business to include a self-serve platform for advertisers to buy and target ads on Instacart’s mobile app and website.

Dallaire has also helped build Instacart’s advertising team, poaching from Amazon, Google, and ad agencies.

Dallaire has also held top ad sales roles at Yahoo and Microsoft and currently serves on the board of directors for the Ad Council.

Sumit Garg, product lead

Garg joined Instacart in July 2020 after more than three years as a product manager at Google, and helps build ad products and ad sales strategy to help advertisers reach shoppers using user feedback and data.

At Google, according to Garg’s LinkedIn profile, he worked on technology to show people relevant and personalized ads, which could hint at his plans for Instacart. He also has held product management roles at Bloomreach, eBay, and Microsoft.

Brian Gillis, insights director

Gillis’ job is to arm advertisers with data about how people shop.

He works with Instacart’s sales team to help measure ad and sales performance for big CPG brands and develops best practices for advertisers.

Advertisers get such data depending on their ad spend level; advertisers that spend more than 10% of sales on advertising get access to information like whether a shopper is new to Instacart and what items their first order contained.

Gillis is a longtime retail tech exec who previously worked at companies like retail insights firm Spins, Dunnhumby and General Mills.

Vik Gupta, VP of ads engineering

Gupta works on building the tech backbone of Instacart’s advertising.

The former Google engineering exec, who joined Instacart in September 2020, leads its advertising engineering team, which is building out ad technology for Instacart’s self-serve platform and managed services.

Gupta also is a member of the company’s leadership team.

Abhi Jain, senior director of media analytics

Jain is an adtech and retail veteran who is building tools to help advertisers measure the performance of ads and understand consumer habits.

Performance is one way Instacart is working to differentiate its ad business from retailers like Walmart and Amazon.

Jain joined Instacart in August 2020 after spending three years at Criteo, most recently working on the adtech company’s push into retail media. He previously worked at retail tech firm Dunnhumby.

Kasey Jamison, director of sales of large customer category

Jamison is a key example of the people with deep experience in advertising and e-commerce that Instacart is hiring.

She helps onboard big advertisers like Coca-Cola, General Mills, and Conagra, and helps them use tools like Instacart’s self-serve platform that lets advertisers buy across multiple retail sites.

She joined Instacart in 2020 after nine years at Amazon, where she worked with big CPG companies as well as non-packaged goods advertisers like financial and entertainment companies.

Ryan Mayward, VP of ad sales

Mayward joined Instacart in March after playing a big role in Amazon’s advertising ambitions.

He’s part of Instacart’s leadership team and is responsible for deepening its relationships with advertisers and ad agencies.

Mayward served in a top advertising role at Amazon, helping it form relationships with big ad holding companies like WPP and Publicis and pitch newer ad forms like streaming TV and programmatic advertising. 

Before Amazon, Mayward worked in sales at NBCUniversal.

Michelle McRae, director of ad sales capabilities and strategy

McRae runs sales operations, enablement, and product marketing for Instacart’s ad business.

Her team works on problems like yield management, which adjusts the available ad space throughout the year to account for changes in advertisers’ spend.

McRae also co-leads Instacart’s internal resource group [email protected] group.

Before joining Instacart in 2015, McRae was a consultant at Bain & Company.

Kyle McWhirter, director of emerging

While big packaged goods brands are mainstays of grocery stores, McWhirter helps emerging brands advertise on Instacart’s network of retailers — which delivers products from stores like Walgreens, Albertson’s, and Kroger — helping them decide how much to spend and measure ad performance.

Before joining Instacart in 2020, McWhirter was the general manager of Ascential’s arm called Spotlight that helps brands sell their products on marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart. He also was chief of staff of Amazon’s advertising business, working with brands like Procter & Gamble.

Mona Mohanty, principal product manager

Mohanty is responsible for a product management team that focuses on growth and advertiser experiences.

She builds advertising products with engineers, data scientists and designers to make Instacart stand out among the growing number of retail media platforms that advertisers buy ads on.

The tech veteran previously held product management roles at Twitter, Facebook, eBay, and Microsoft.

Josh Rider, head of brand partnerships

Sources said one challenge Instacart has in growing its ad business is that it lacks leaders with strong CPG backgrounds who understand how brands structure sales deals with big retailers.

An exception is Rider, who leads ad sales for Instacart’s brand partnership team and worked in retail roles at brands like General Mills, Total Wine & More, and retail tech firm Symphony Retail before joining Instacart in 2017.

Before working on the ad business, Rider also helped launch Instacart’s retail partnerships and worked with retailers to negotiate contracts.

Rider helps advertisers navigate Instacart’s growing ad platform as demand grows. On one day in the fourth quarter of 2020, Instacart had more clicks on ads than in all of 2019, for example.

“Brands need to make sure that their item can stand out on a mobile device when she’s shopping across the largest digital grocery catalog in the world,” Rider recently said on an episode of the CPG Guys podcast.

Suzanne Skop, director of agency sales

One of Instacart’s challenges in building an advertising business is getting ad agencies on board.

Skor is tasked for growing Instacart’s relationships with large advertising holding companies. As retail media gets more crowded with new platforms, part of her role is to prove to advertisers that Instacart can drive results.

Before joining Instacart in 2020, she worked in digital ad sales roles at Valassis, Bazaarvoice, and Microsoft.

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