Blue Apron, the $1 billion dollar online food delivery startup that sells “meal kits” containing everything the customer needs to make a meal at home, opened on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday at $10 a share.
The company initially anticipated pricing its IPO in the range of $15-17 per share. The decision to enter the public market at just $10/share is likely a reaction to Amazon’s June 17 announcement that it will acquire Whole Foods in a $13.7 billion deal. Since 2010, only 4% of internet companies have dropped their expected IPO range.
The value of Blue Apron’s shares increased by 9% as trading opened Thursday, but fell back by noon and hovered around the opening price for the rest of the day. The stock closed at exactly $10 a share.
The flatness of the stock is somewhat disappointing, considering the success of some of Blue Apron’s fellow “unicorns,” or technology startup companies whose market values exceed $1 billion dollars, who have gone public. When Snap, Inc., owner of Snapchat and a few other social media services, rolled out its IPO on the NYSE in March, the prices of its shares rose 44% on the first day of trading.
Blue Apron CEO Matthew Salzberg is quick to point out that a single day does not make or break a company. “We’re focused on the long term, quite frankly…This wasn’t a special moment where we needed to go public right now,” he said.
Salzberg says he has always wanted Blue Apron “to be the kind of company that could be a public company. The kind of caliber of company that’s going after a big enough opportunity, with a long enough orientation, and ambitious enough business plan.”
Following the IPO, Blue Apron’s value is estimated to be $1.89 billion. When held privately, the company was worth about $2 billion. Blue Apron shares sold for about $13.33 apiece on the private market in the company’s Series D investment round.
The startup’s revenue has skyrocketed by over 1000% since 2014. That year, the company brought in $77.8 million in revenue; in 2016, it reported $795.4 million in revenue. Blue Apron generates about $300 per customer per year. Nonetheless, the company’s net losses have increased every year since 2014.
Blue Apron is selling 30 million shares and expects to bring $300 million as a result of its IPO. The proceeds will go toward enhancing automation and supply chain technology, and toward creating meal kits that accommodate specialty diets and special occasions.
The food delivery industry is changing rapidly as technology progresses. Last year, 12% of shoppers in the US purchased groceries online at least once. Many expect that percentage to continue to grow.
Still, Blue Apron is reporting losses, and many of its competitors are folding or gasping for breath. SpoonRocket, a startup that delivered prepared meals to its Bay Area customers, folded in March. Umi kitchen, an app which allowed chefs to prepare food in their homes and then sell it to people nearby, shut down its New York City operations after a mere four months.
Moreover, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods probably signals the tech giant’s intention to expand not only its traditional grocery stores but its online food delivery service, Amazon Fresh, as well. Needless to say, it may prove difficult for startups like Blue Apron to carve out niches for themselves with a behemoth like Amazon throwing its weight around in the market.
Despite sharing space in the online food delivery sector, though, Amazon and Blue Apron may not be direct competitors. Blue Apron kits come with unique recipes, and contain ingredients sourced from Blue Apron’s own farms. Thus, a Blue Apron meal is proprietary in the same way a meal one might buy in a farm-to-table restaurant is proprietary.
Blue Apron’s proprietorship over its ingredients and its recipes may make it something like an “online restaurant,” whereas Amazon Fresh is an online grocery store. If Amazon and Blue Apron each take a unique corner of the online food market, the success of one company may help the other. If people get used to buying their groceries online, they may become more inclined to spend their restaurant budget online, and vise versa.
Blue Apron’s future is uncertain. Now, thousands of traders will bet on it in the New York Stock Exchange.