Young Guns

The Life Story of Bil­lion­aire In­sta­gram Founder Kevin Sys­trom

Industry Leaders - - Content Features -

Born on De­cem­ber 30, 1983; Kevin Sys­trom is the founder and CEO of In­sta­gram. For all those who aren’t aware; In­sta­gram is an on­line photo shar­ing ap­pli­ca­tion with 250 mil­lion daily ac­tive users. It’s one of the few ap­pli­ca­tions which ac­counts for the big­gest names from the celebrity world as their loyal users. Within two years of its launch, In­sta­gram was ac­quired by Face­book for an as­tound­ing $1 bil­lion in 2012. Presently, it is val­ued at $50 bil­lion, and ac­counts for 700 mil­lion monthly ac­tive users.

Kevin Sys­trom is said to be the man be­hind In­sta­gram’s over­all vi­sion and strat­egy along with day-to-day op­er­a­tions. Un­der his lead­er­ship, In­sta­gram has grown on to be­come one of the most pop­u­lar ap­pli­ca­tions of all time.

In­sta­gram is used by many for vis­ual sto­ry­telling – be it celebrities, brands, news­rooms, mu­si­cians, to teens and ab­so­lutely any­one. Speak­ing of his per­sonal life; Kevin is a very pri­vate per­son. He com­pleted his Bach­e­lors in Man­age­ment Science and En­gi­neer­ing from Stan­ford Univer­sity. He was first in­tro­duced to pro­gram­ming dur­ing his teens, and has since been hooked to it. His undy­ing pas­sion for pro­gram­ming helped him en­ter the tech world at a very young age. The irony is that his first real job was far from pro­gram­ming.

Dur­ing his high school days, Kevin was ob­sessed with be­com­ing a DJ. At one point in his life, he even wrote emails to a vinyl-record store to give him a job there. When he be­gan his col­lege life at Stan­ford, he was sur­prised to dis­cover his lean­ings to­wards more prac­ti­cal sub­jects like Fi­nance and Eco­nomics.

At Stan­ford, he was one of the few stu­dents who were cho­sen to par­take in the May­field Fel­lows Pro­gram. This even­tu­ally led to an in­tern­ship at Odeo Inc, a pod­cast start-up cre­ated by Evan Wil­liams. This was around the same time when Face­book was launched.

Did you know that Mark Zucker­berg once tried to hire Kevin when he was still an un­der­grad­u­ate at Stan­ford in 2004? Of course, Kevin had to no say to the gig be­cause he wanted to com­plete his de­gree first.

Af­ter earn­ing his de­gree, Kevin joined Google as an As­so­ciate Prod­uct Mar­ket­ing Man­ager. It was at Google that he worked on sev­eral pop­u­lar prod­ucts such as Gmail, Spread­sheets, Docs, Cal­en­dar un­til he was moved to the Cor­po­rate Devel­op­ment team.

In 2009, he fi­nally de­cided he wanted to take a ma­jor risk in life. You must think Kevin wanted to start a com­pany, but you’re wrong. In­stead, the young man joined a startup called Nextstop.com as a prod­uct man­ager. The startup was founded by ex- Googlers, and of­fers lu­cra­tive travel rec­om­men­da­tions to its cus­tomers. It was at Nextstop he got the op­por­tu­nity to write code and pro­grams re­volv­ing around pho­tos. You know

where we’re go­ing now, don’t you?

In his spare time, Kevin started work­ing on a lo­ca­tion-based photo shar­ing app called Burbn. Af­ter a suc­cess­ful meet­ing with An­dreessen Horowitz in 2010, Kevin quit his job and went on to cre­ate Burbn on a full-time ba­sis. Within two weeks of quit­ting the job, he re­ceived his first ever fund­ing amount from Base­line Ven­tures and An­dreesen Horowitz. Around the same time, he called fel­low Stan­ford grad­u­ate Mike Krieger to run the start-up.

In spite of the press cov­er­age, the app failed to garner pub­lic in­ter­est. While it was quite sim­i­lar to Foursquare, it was also unique in its own way. Af­ter all, it was a lo­ca­tion-based photo shar­ing app!

Things didn’t work out quite well as Sys­trom had ex­pected. At one point, he stripped the app com­pletely and cus­tom­ized it only for iphone users. The app was decked with mul­ti­ple fil­ters that made pic­tures look artsy. Af­ter spend­ing two months tweak­ing code and re­fin­ing the plat­form, the duo came up with In­sta­gram – de­rived from In­stant and Tele­gram.

Within two hours of the time that In­sta­gram went live, its servers went down again and again due to the high tragic. The two founders worked like crazy all night out of fear of in­stant fail­ure. It is said that 25,000 peo­ple had signed up on the plat­form in the first 24 hours.

Peo­ple loved the way the app al­lowed them to share pho­tos and videos on­line. The plat­form let them share a dig­i­tal photo al­bum with friends and fam­ily. Within nine months of

its launch, In­sta­gram had gained 7 mil­lion users, world­wide. Some of its most high pro­file users in­clude Justin Bieber and Ryan Seacrest.

By 2012, In­sta­gram was val­ued at $25 mil­lion, and went on to be­com be­come an in­stant suc­cess. In Septem­ber 2011, the founders launch launched a Ver­sion 2.0, which in­cluded live fil­ters, bor­ders, ro­tati ro­ta­tion, and an up­dated icon. With the app launch­ing on the Andr An­droid plat­form, the founders gained more than one mil­lion user users in less than one day. The app went on to be­come one of the most down­loaded apps on Google Play.

ThisThi is what forced Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg to take no­ti­ceno of the app. When he re­al­ized a lot of Face­book users hadha stopped us­ing Face­book to post pho­tos, in­stead of shar­ing themth via their In­sta­gram feed. It was mat­ter of press­ing con­cernc to Zucker­berg. Kevin was in the in­ner cir­cle of the Face­bookF CEO, the two used to meet at Stan­ford gath­er­ing, and Zucker­berg was like a men­tor to him.

At a con­fer­ence Kevin was of­fered $500 mil­lion for In­sta­gram. It was around this time, Mark Zucker­berg of­fered to buy In­sta­gram for $1 bil­lion in cash and stock. It was a deal!

In April 2012, In­sta­gram along with 13 em­ploy­ees was ac­quired by Face­book. Even af­ter its ac­qui­si­tion, In­sta­gram re­mains to be an in­de­pen­dently man­aged com­pany un­der Face­book, Inc. It has be­come a haven for celebrities in­clud­ing Tay­lor Swift, Kim Kar­dashian, Justin Bieber, etc.

Since the In­sta­gram ac­qui­si­tion in 2012, Kevin has made a to­tal of three in­vest­ments, which in­cludes Blue Bot­tle Cof­fee, Sparks and Even.

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