The Story Behind Instagram
Instagram is perhaps the most defining app of the last decade and this makes sense because it was launched in 2010, unlike Facebook and YouTube which were launched in the previous decade. While the term Instagram influencer usually doesn’t conjure up the most stellar amount of respect but there’s no denying that the app has had a meaningful impact on society. Everyone from Vladimir Putin to Ariana Grande and Prince Harry has an account but it wasn’t always this way.
So, let’s understand how Instagram was started by the two nerds from Stanford University and made it into a billion-dollar company.
Origin of Instagram
The ideation of Instagram came from alcohol specifically bourbon and whiskey. We probably didn’t guess that but that was the original purpose of the app in 2009. A 27-year-old man by the name of Kevin Systrom used to enjoy his fine bourbon and whiskey so much that he coded an app called burbn. The purpose of burbn was to let people make plans, check into locations that are good for drinks and share photos.
At this point, the Burbn app was a small side hobby and Kevin wouldn’t have thought much about it at the time but as with most things that make a mark in the world is all about being in the right place at the right time and in this Kevin got lucky.
Launch of Instagram
A crucial turning point came in March of 2010 when Kevin attended a party. The party was for a Silicon Valley startup called Hunch and Kevin met venture capitalists and showed them the prototype of the Burbn app. The VCs were impressed and they all decided to meet for coffee to discuss the idea further. After the very first meeting, Kevin leaped faith and decided to quit his job to focus on Burbn and within only just two weeks he managed to raise $500,000 in seed funding from the venture capitalists.
With this money, he began assembling a group and the first to join was Brazilian 25-year-old Mike Krieger. Kevin had met Mike during their time at Stanford and they’d kept in touch afterward so it was a simple decision for the two to work together.
So now the time came to try and figure out how to make this burbn app a hit. Although the app had check-in, messaging features but photo sharing turned out to be the most popular feature. Also, they needed to focus on just one aspect of the app and cut the rest of it. At this point, burbn pivoted to become more focused on photo-sharing with likes and comments. This was the time they would change the name to Instagram, a combination of instant camera and telegram.
After eight weeks of adjusting the application with the small team by improving the photo-sharing capabilities, they offered it to their friends for a beta test and ended up fixing bugs. When they were satisfied, they decided to launch it on the 6th of October 2010 and on that very same day it turned into the top free photo-sharing application piling on 25,000 users.
Growth of Instagram
The growth of Instagram continued after the launch and by mid-December of 2010, they had 1 million users. Instagram’s user base kept expanding and investors took notice by early 2011 and they valued it at $25M. At the same time, Jack Dorsey of Twitter tried to buy them out but the $500M price tag wasn’t enough for co-founder Kevin and Mike.
By March 2012, the applications user base had grown to 27 million and in April 2012 Facebook buy them out for $1B and the key arrangement fo buyout was that Instagram would remain autonomous.
Interesting facts about Instagram
1. In 2020, Instagram is becoming less about influencers and more about businesses.
- 80% of user accounts follow a business on Instagram.
- 33% of the most viewed stories are from business accounts.
- 200 million Instagram users visit at least one business profile every day.
- The biggest brand on Instagram is National Geographic with over 100 million followers and this is followed by Nike, and then the NBA.
2. Surprisingly 89.5% of all Instagram photos are posted normally with no Instagram filter added.
3. Instagram is now estimated to be worth $100 billion.
4. 37% of all adults in the United States use the platform.
5. The company is still fairly lean and only employs 550 people around the world.
6. The most-liked food on Instagram is Pizza.
7. The most-liked Instagram photo is an egg with a white background. The entire account called world record egg was created for the sole intention of getting the world record for the most number of likes which was formerly held by Kylie Jenne.
8. Brazil has the second-largest amount of Instagram users after the United States.
The two Co-founders
In 2018, both founders left to pursue other projects. Though Kevin Systrom is now billionaire according to the Guardian and he now enjoys fine food, golf, skiing and holidays. Meanwhile, the other co-founder Mike Krieger actively takes part in philanthropy.
What’s the main takeaway from Instagram and its founders? We learn if you are building something and you’re not sure in which direction to go. You have to focus on strengths and try not to get attached to ideas that you love but may not sell.
Kevin loved burbn and thought that it was a neat idea to have a place where people could form a community around it. But, when he saw the people were using the app primarily for photo sharing he decided to pivot and cut the rest and that was the decisive move.