Kevin Systrom Curated
Founder of Instagram
CURATED BY :
Did you personally sign him up?
Yeah. I went to Vatican City twice. The first time was to present the idea. I explained why, no matter who you are, if you have something to say, Instagram’s the place to do it. He said, “Well, my team will look at this and give me their decision. But they’re not in charge, because everyone has a boss.” He pointed at himself. He said, “Even I have a boss,” and he pointed up in the sky. I thought that was really funny. A few weeks went by, and they decided collectively — he decided they were going to sign up. They called back, and they said, “Can you come back to sign him up?” I was like, “Well, you just fill out a form. It’s really easy. You just click.” My COO came over and elbowed me in the shoulder and was like, “You get yourself to Rome.” We went two days later. We showed up, and he was finishing Mass. We had just flown in. We were bleary-eyed. He walked in, and he turned the corner, and he goes, “Kevin!” It was like seeing an old friend from your basketball team or something. It was such a fun moment for me, just his humility and friendliness throughout the whole process was pretty awesome. We had an iPad, and it was all set up. The name was filled out. So, literally, all he had to do was click sign up.
I was in Paris and there’s one particular pastry that looks like it was designed for Instagram. Could you have anticipated that?
Not at all. If you look at our first photos in our feed meeting, me and my co-founder, they’re of half-eaten sandwiches and cups of coffee. But I do distinctly remember, when we were deciding what to do, I had this moment where I really felt clarity, that the fact that phones now had cameras meant there was going to be this massive shift in how people shared their lives. The idea that you could immediately show someone what you’re doing, that’s going to happen. I guess, if I were even smarter, to think of the next chapter, I might see the repercussions in a restaurant or a club. But instead, I got a front-row seat to watch that transformation happen. You saw organizations that didn’t necessarily embrace technology in the past start to embrace technology. I remember signing the [email protected]’s first Instagram post, March 2016. up for Instagram and thinking, Wow. At the highest abstract level, what a magical thing that that can happen, period. A couple guys can create something and, in a few years, shift the world in some meaningful way for an organization that’s been around forever.
I used to go on a lot of hikes and not record or share them. I’d simply have the experience. Do you think there’s any aspect of us now that goes on the hike just to share the experience, as opposed to just having the experience?
I’m sure some people do. When I’m on my bike, I go across the Golden Gate Bridge and it’s full of people taking selfies. And I’m sure that drives them to want to go, because they have to show people they visited San Francisco. But I think broadly, you’re having an experience, and the joy of that experience you want to go share with people you love. And I think that’s great. That’s why we created the platform. My job at Instagram was to create products that people loved and found useful, and obviously take into account what the side effects are of building this thing. But often I think people like to judge products based on a small, interesting, and potentially volatile use case, rather than on how most people use it. Broadly, people use Instagram to share with their family and their friends and see what exists in the world that might be interesting to them. And that was always the goal.
Really? No one ever says to you —
You’re mentioning people retracting from Instagram in some way. I see that as kind of like hip coffee shops that ban Wi-Fi because they want more conversation. I get it. But it also is the other way. You walk into any museum today: Ten years ago, they banned photography; now they’re like, “No, take photos of yourself with the art. It’s great publicity.” So you see organizations that go the opposite way, like fashion shows. Now it’s literally designed to be an Instagrammable event. There are restaurants whose dishes are effectively plated to be Instagrammed.Now food is created specifically for Instagram, as with @vibrantandpure’s “Unicorn Toast” (cream cheese, natural food colorants, bread) in 2016.
There’s a club I like to go to, and they literally said you cannot use Instagram in this club. The owner said, “It’s really, really disruptive to the experience of being here.” Do people ever complain to you?
All the time. But they just want a verified badge. They don’t complain about the product, no.
One really concrete example of how it changed culture is that I just went to a music show a couple of weeks ago and they confiscated our phones.
Yeah, I went to a comedy show once, where they put them in these secret bags.
What does it feel like to have changed the world with Instagram and to see the world changed to be part of Instagram?
It’s really strange to me to walk down the street and see people using a product that I remember very clearly making, but what’s weirder is it doesn’t actually wow me. When we launched,Systrom and Mike Krieger launched Instagram on October 5, 2010. It had 25,000 users by the end of the day. I think it was 24 hours later, there was someone using it on the subway on the way home. I was blown away. But we didn’t set out to change the world; we just set out to make a good product that we wanted to build and we wanted to use. We got fairly lucky in that, it turns out, what we wanted, a lot of other people wanted. That’s not lost on me, but it is kind of lost on me.
Do you think Instagram is scared on Snapchat?
How do you see Instagram taking advantage of futuristic things like Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence?
Do you think Mark Zuckerberg allowed you to continue operations independently in Instagram when he bought it from you?
When Citigroup valued Instagram at 35 billion dollars a year later you sold it for a billion dollars, what did you feel?
Can you tell us about the moment when you first thought of selling Instagram?
When did you know Instagram has the potential to become something really great?
What was it like interning at ODO, the company which later became Twitter?
Why didn’t you take the job in Facebook that was on offer when you were studying at Standford?
How did your love for photography was reflected in Instagram?
When did you develop interest in the world of technology?
What are the values that has built over the years as Instagram grew from an application to a community?
How did you deal with your nerves before the launch of your application?
How were you able to have such a good launch for your application?
How did you come up with the main theme of Instagram which was very new at the time?
How did you prepare yourself for the challenge of a startup so early?
Tell us a bit about your mindset at the time when you were in college or graduating college.
What was the first startup that you started in Standford?
At what point did you realize that you wanted to go for a startup?
What message would you put out for the world at large?
What is the biggest mistake that entrepreneurs and creators commit in their early stages?
Are there any advice that you give to entrepreneurs that are not properly followed?
How do you think reading biographies are important?
How do you select the books you are going to read?
How do you go about your decision making when your organization grows in size?
How did you learn to manage people in the company?
What kind of motivation do you give yourself in difficult situations?
Tell us about some of the tough days of your early days of your career?
What is the importance of feedback?
Why is it important to learn from failures?
How can an entrepreneur know that their project is a dead end and they needs to move on with something new?
What kind of technique do you employ for reading a book?
Why do you think taking a personality test was helpful for you?
What was your experience at Mayfield Fellows Program?
How did Instagram came into existence?
How do you think simplicity has been important in the early days of your startup?
What books did you find helpful in your early days as an entrepreneur?
Are there any particular books that you would suggest others to read?