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Friday - - Society Living Leisure -

off a yacht. “That’s ex­actly what I was told. I’ve never been on a yacht.”

Not that Sys­trom doesn’t en­joy much of what fame and for­tune pro­vides. He and his girl­friend have moved out of his onebed­room rental apart­ment af­ter buy­ing a big­ger place in San Fran­cisco.

But he reck­ons there’s a real Sys­trom and the one tweaked by the cam­eras. “I think my per­sonal per­sona is: I’m pretty out­go­ing. I love to cook. I like mu­sic... Ver­sus: I’m into cock­tails, we’re out drink­ing ev­ery night and par­ty­ing. That’s not the truth.”

The founder of a so­cial net­work that re­lies on open­ness has be­come a more pri­vate per­son. “There are times that we’d be out at a restau­rant and hav­ing a se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion about life. Then the ta­ble next to us will, half­way through din­ner, lean over and ask, ‘Can we get a pic­ture be­cause we love In­sta­gram?’ That’s a weird jump to make if you’re a nerd who likes to make prod­ucts.”

But there has been some resid­ual hurt and fall­out, such as friends fall­ing by the way­side. “You very quickly sort your real friends from peo­ple who were just there think­ing maybe they could cap­i­talise on the rise.”

Some busi­ness re­la­tion­ships ap­pear to have bro­ken down, too. In­sta­gram and Twit­ter were pre­vi­ously best bud­dies. The abil­ity to post In­sta­gram pho­tos di­rectly into tweets was a ma­jor part of the early pop­u­lar­ity of both ser­vices. But soon af­ter the Face­book deal was done, In­sta­gram re­moved that ca­pa­bil­ity. Again, this may all come back to the deal. Un­der oath in front of US reg­u­la­tors, Sys­trom said Face­book was the only com­pany to have made a se­ri­ous of­fer for In­sta­gram. Twit­ter ex­ec­u­tives are said to be taken aback by this re­sponse. Re­ports sug­gest they of­fered, at least ver­bally, around $525m, only to be re­buffed. Twit­ter’s of­fer is said to have come just weeks be­fore Zucker­berg made his move. Dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tions, the ru­moured Twit­ter of­fer is the only sub­ject Sys­trom re­fuses to be drawn on.

Twit­ter and In­sta­gram now com­pete fiercely. Twit­ter has launched its own photo ser­vice, which (you guessed it) al­lows peo­ple to ap­ply fil­ters on pic­tures and post them as tweets. In Jan­uary, Twit­ter un­veiled a video ser­vice called Vine, al­low­ing smart­phone own­ers to post clips in six-se­cond bursts. In June, In­sta­gram launched its own video ser­vice, but its clips can be 15 sec­onds.

Sys­trom says his new mis­sion at In­sta­gram is to come up with ways of get­ting big­ger and hot­ter without im­plod­ing in the process. He has been busy hir­ing new staff, in­creas­ing In­sta­gram’s work­force to around 50. One key new face is Emi­lyWhite, di­rec­tor of busi­ness op­er­a­tions. White, 35, has been set the daunt­ing task of turn­ing In­sta­gram from the web’s sex­i­est fad into an ac­tual busi­ness.

One ofWhite’s first moves was to sit down with Sys­trom and tell him his com­pany needed a mis­sion state­ment. Sys­trom re­mem­bers rolling his eyes, “My first re­ac­tion was, we don’t need this. Why are we spend­ing time on this pie-in-the-sky, vi­sion stuff?”

White ex­plained that with In­sta­gram ex­pand­ing so quickly, it would be­come in­creas­ingly hard to know ev­ery per­son on his team. He needed to be able to com­mu­ni­cate what the end goal of their project is. They set­tled on a motto that is bound­less, im­pres­sive and im­pos­si­ble: “To cap­ture and share the world’s mo­ments.”

The next step is to make money. Sys­trom says the com­pany has been meet­ing ad­ver­tis­ers and mar­keters but is still fig­ur­ing out how it adapts the app to show­case its wares. White sug­gests that ad­verts in In­sta­gram should ap­pear as they do in mag­a­zines such as Vogue. “As you flick through, there’s or­ganic con­tent and com­mer­cial con­tent side by side,” she said.

But be­yond mak­ing In­sta­gram into a vi­able busi­ness, Sys­trom pro­fesses no other burn­ing am­bi­tion. You sense he is too busy en­joy­ing the mo­ment to think fur­ther ahead. “It’s this sense of won­der,” he says. “How did this hap­pen?”

Later, he an­swers his ques­tion, un­con­sciously us­ing the lan­guage of pho­tog­ra­phy to de­scribe how he con­tin­ues to guide In­sta­gram’s rocket ship. “It’s all blurry,” he says. “You don’t know what you’ll get over there. You just keep shoot­ing in the di­rec­tion that is op­ti­mal.”



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