Instacart CEO Fidji Simo on Why You Need Sponsors Not Mentors, Where Management Skills Align with Good Parenting & The First 100 Days as CEO at Instacart; The Challenges, The Surprises and The Next Chapter | Twenty Minute VC with Harry Stebbings

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Key Takeaways

  • “It’s trying to find the magic in people and shining a light on it” – Fidji Simo
    • Great management is allowing people to be flexible in the path to success, giving them the right tools and conditions for their best functionality. All while being inflexible to the goal.
  • Mentors are not critical, sponsors are
    • “Sponsors are the people who put their butt on the line for you and help you open doors when you need them the most” – Fidji Simo
    • Sponsors are advocates for the next step in your career; mentors mold you day-to-day in the role that you’re in
  • If you want an opportunity, let your uniqueness overpower your experience (or lack thereof). Your uniqueness is your advantage. Make the hiring decision of you obvious.
    • “People who are curious and hungry will figure anything out. This will overcome a lot of experience” – Fidji Simo
  • You’ll never experience burnout if you make creativity the focal point of everything that you do
  • Instacart is planning for an evolution in the way people view, consume, and interact with food
    • Personalization, convenience, and nutrition are key themes

Intro

  • Fidji Simo (@fidjissimo) is the CEO of Instacart, a leader in store-to-door delivery of anything you want. She previously was the Head of the Facebook App. In this conversation, Harry and Fidji discuss effective management styles, opinions on mentorship, how to leverage your uniqueness, and the future of the food industry.
  • Host: Harry Stebbings (@HarryStebbings)

Fidji Simo

  • Grew up in a French-Sicilian family, everything they do revolves around food
  • Had a deep sense of work ethic from a very young age
    • Father worked from 2 am-8 pm out on the water
    • “I will love you for all your flaws, but you can’t be lazy” – Fidji’s Grandfather
  • Fidji has always picked jobs that she loved; this caused her to never experience any sort of burnout
    • If you put creativity at the center of what you do, you’ll always be inspired

Management & Mentorship

  • Has applied her management tools towards her parenting (not vice versa, which is more typical)
  • “It’s trying to find the magic in people and shining a light on it” – Fidji Simo
    • This is her number one goal in life
  • Creating conditions for success are much more important than day-to-day task completion
    • Fidji built a healthy balance of inspired accountability and also support when needed
    • “Be inflexible on the goal and very flexible on how you get there” – Fidji Simo
  • When a leader has to dig into the details of a problem, one of two things have happened:
    • They didn’t communicate the right strategy for people to be independently successful
    • They didn’t hire the right people
  • Mentors are not critical, sponsors are
    • “Sponsors are the people who put their butt on the line for you and help you open doors when you need them the most” – Fidji Simo
    • Sponsors are advocates for the next step in your career; mentors mold you day-to-day in the role you’re in

Facebook Career and Lessons

  • Mutual friends tell Harry that Fidji had the quickest rise through the corporate hierarchy Facebook had ever seen
    • Applied to a Marketing Communications role even though she didn’t have any of the qualifications
      • She spent all of Thanksgiving building ‘Facebook Store’ and marketing material as a prototype which served as her application
      • She got the job regardless of experience:
        • If you want something, go the extra mile. Make the decision to hire you obvious.
        • Your uniqueness is your advantage
        • “People who are curious and hungry will figure anything out. This will overcome a lot of experience” – Fidji Simo
        • Curiosity can be gauged in ‘how’ people problem solve
  • She helped design the process of monetizing the mobile Facebook application
  • Eventually, she was hired as Head of the Facebook App
  • Fidji had no intention of leaving Facebook but fell in love with the Instacart business

Instacart

  • Fidji loves the complex market of Instacart – the intersection of retailers, consumers, and shoppers
    • Lots of evolutions in food are upcoming: personalization, convenience, nutrition
    • But more importantly the Instacart mission – help people get access to food and spend more time enjoying it with the people they love
  • Instacart’s business is more externally focused rather than internally
    • Instacart’s success is more tied to its business partner’s success than Facebook
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Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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