Scaling Culture from 0 to IPO with Instacart's Co-Founder

Scaling Culture from 0 to IPO with Instacart's Co-Founder

Max Mullen, Co-Founder of Instacart, shared a keynote followed by a fireside chat moderated by Jade Choy, Co-Founder and CEO at Epoch. This session offered a deep dive into the evolution of company culture through the rapid growth phases leading to an IPO, providing attendees with a roadmap to understanding and cultivating a thriving corporate culture.

About Max

Max Mullen brings a wealth of knowledge from his journey with Instacart, from its inception in 2012 through its going public in 2023. His insights into building a culture that scales effectively have been instrumental in shaping Instacart's success.

The essence of culture

Max sets the stage for a comprehensive exploration of what culture means within a company. He proposed that culture is not just about the perks like snacks and benefits, but is deeply intertwined with the company's DNA, influencing decision-making, employee experiences, and the organization's stance in the world.

Defining culture

Max asked the audience to define company culture. The responses highlighted that while opinions vary, all contribute a piece to the larger puzzle of what culture embodies. Max emphasized, "Culture is the DNA of the company," a thread woven through the very fabric of the organization.

Building blocks for great culture

Max described the origins of culture as emerging from personal beliefs and reinforced through daily behaviors and traditions. He provided a framework for understanding how foundational beliefs and behaviors are crucial for a robust company culture.

The following are the four main pillars essential for scaling culture effectively:

  1. Alignment through shared values: Ensuring everyone is on the same page with what the company believes in.
  2. Articulation of ambitions: Clearly stating the company’s goals and vision.
  3. Reward systems: Encouraging behaviors that align with the company's values.
  4. Supportive environment: Creating a workplace that supports and enhances these values.

Designing company culture

Max provided actionable insights on how to design and implement a culture that not only fits the company's current state but also evolves with it. 

Discussion points included:

  • Core values: Identifying unique expectations for behavior within the company.
  • People: Understanding and defining collaborative work dynamics.
  • Ambitions: Pinpointing the overarching goals driving the company.
  • Rewards: Establishing what success looks like within the context of the company.
  • Environment: Crafting a workplace atmosphere that reflects and supports the cultural ethos.

Looking ahead

As companies grow and evolve, particularly through significant milestones like an IPO, understanding and intentionally shaping the company culture becomes increasingly crucial. Max provided both theoretical insights and practical strategies for nurturing a culture that aligns with both corporate objectives and employee needs.

Key takeaways

  1. Culture is the core DNA of a company, shaping decisions, employee experiences, and its global stance. It includes fundamental beliefs and behaviors.
  2. Develop strategies to evolve company culture. Define core values, understand work dynamics, set goals, set success metrics, and create a supportive environment during milestones like an IPO.
  3. Shape culture to grow with the company. Design it to meet current and future needs, aligning insights with objectives and employee needs.

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