• Kunal Sinha

Zero to One: Kevin Systrom

Updated: Apr 27

I believe you know who Kevin Systrom is? if not check your mobile and you will be using his app day in and day out. Yes, you are right he is the Founder of Instagram.

Let's try to decode Kevin's initial days on why he built Instagram and how he built it.

Kevin was keen on coding and used to develop computer games from his childhood. In college, he gained interest in the application of computer science in the field of Finance and Management as he was inquisitive about learning about the practical applications of coding. He was selected for Mayfield Fellow Program where he was exposed to entrepreneurship.

In 2006 he worked for Google as associate product marketing manager where he worked for Gmail, Google Sheets, and Google Calendar. In 2009, he joined a startup, NextStop as a Product Manager, working as a product manager he was sure that entrepreneurship was his calling.

He had a passion for photography and social sharing and in 2010 he started his own firm called Burbn It was a location-based photo-sharing app. He also got seed funding for his app from Baseline Ventures, he then found cofounder in his friend Mike Kreiger.

Somehow Burburn did not get that traction due to it having too many features, which confused users on what to do. There was 1 specific feature of photo-sharing that was being used.

Kevin was on vacation when his fiance Nicole, told her she would never use this app as it did not have any option to make her pics better. This feedback led Kevin to scrap Burbn app and make Instagram, an app that concentrated on one specific feature of making photographs better

The app empowered photographers and people to make their pics better. He launched it for iPhone as it had just launched. The word Instagram came from Instant+ Telegram.

People enjoyed making their photos better, it became a massive hit among people to tell their stories. Famous celebrities joined Instagram and due to network effect it grew and the rest is history.

What are the lessons from 0 to 1 story of Instagram?

1. Focus on one specific feature rather than focusing on 100 features. Less is more and keep it simple are two punch lines that come in my mind.

2. Listen to user feedback, whether it is positive and negative. Kevin took the feedback of his fiance on the chin and pivoted the app completely.

3. Be fixed on vision, flexible on a checkpoint, the vision of Instagram was to empower photographers and democratize photo sharing.

4. Have a cofounder, Kevin Systrom had Mike Krieger who was CTO of Instagram, without a stellar cofounder it would not have been possible to build Instagram.

5. Passion and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. Kevin was always passionate about photography and social sharing when he combined both with his business skills it led to birth of Instagram.


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