Deal: Instacart Pays $350M For A Smart Grocery Cart Startup

Instacart logo

In a bid to expand, grocery delivery giant Instacart is making its biggest acquisition yet. It’ll buy Caper AI, a New York-based startup that makes smart grocery carts and cashier-less payments tech that complement them. Instacart will pay $350mn for the startup in a combination of cash and shares.

  • Caper AI is a startup working on exciting stuff; smart shopping carts to make the grocery buying process at brick-and-mortar stores easier and faster. Its smart carts can recognize items placed in them with the help of cameras and weight sensors, then calculate their total cost without the need for barcodes as used in most grocery stores. Payment at the counter is then made quickly with Caper’s own payments platform.
Caper Cart
Caper’s “AI Cart”.
credit: Caper

  • Also, Caper sells what’s called a “Caper Counter,” a checkout system for convenience stores that uses cameras and weight-based sensors instead of barcodes to sum the total cost of items.
Caper Counter
Caper Counter.
credit: Caper AI
  • Essentially, Caper AI is focused on tech that speeds up the checkout process at grocery stores, tech that Instacart as a grocery delivery giant is understandably interested in. Instacart wants to help with at-home grocery deliveries and also have a major function providing technology to brick-and-mortar grocery stores. 
  • Once the deal closes, Caper will have a strategic ramp to sell its tech to Instacart’s many brick-and-mortar partners. This acquisition looks like an excellent strategy, as Instacart diversifies its business outside grocery deliveries ahead of an expected public listing.
  • Caper’s $350mn price tag marks Instacart’s biggest acquisition yet, out of five startups, including it, that Instacart has acquired since inception.
Instacart had a major leadership change this July, replacing its founder Apoorva Mehta in the CEO role with Fidji Simo, a former Facebook executive. It’s presumed that she was brought in to help prepare Instacart for an initial public offering, and acquiring Caper is a good step towards that.


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