Systrom in 2018
|Born||Kevin York Systrom|
December 30, 1983
|Residence||San Francisco, California|
|Alma mater||Stanford University|
|Known for||Co-Founder of Instagram|
|Net worth||US$1.5 billion (2018)|
|Board member of||Walmart (September 2014 - May 2018)|
Early life and education
Systrom was born in 1983 in Holliston, Massachusetts. He is the son of Diane (Pels), a marketing executive at Zipcar, who also worked at Monster and Swapit during the first dotcom bubble, and Douglas Systrom, Vice President in Human Resources at TJX Companies.
Systrom attended Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, where he was introduced to computer programming. His interest grew from playing Doom 2 and creating his own levels as a child.
He worked at Boston Beat, a vinyl-record store in Boston, while he was in high school.
Systrom attended Stanford University and graduated in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in management science and engineering. At Stanford, he was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. He spent the winter term of his third year in Florence, where he studied photography.
He got his first taste of the startup world when he was chosen as one of twelve students to participate in the Mayfield Fellows Program at Stanford University. The fellowship led to his internship at Odeo, the company that eventually gave rise to Twitter.
After graduating Stanford, he joined Google working on Gmail, Google Calendar, Docs, Spreadsheets and other products. He spent two years at Google as a product marketer; Systrom left Google out of frustration of not being moved into the Associate Product Manager program.
After leaving Google to join Nextstop, a location recommendation startup founded by ex-Googlers that was acquired by Facebook in 2010, Systrom thought of combining location check-ins and popular social games. He made the prototype of what later became Burbn and pitched it to Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz at a party. He came up with the idea while on a vacation in Mexico when his girlfriend was unwilling to post her photos because they did not look good enough when taken by the iPhone 4 camera. The solution to the problem was to use filters, effectively hiding the qualitative inferiority of the photographs. Subsequently, Systrom developed the X-Pro II filter that is still in use on Instagram today.
After the first meeting, he decided to quit his job in order to explore whether or not Burbn could become a company. Within 2 weeks of quitting his job, he received US$500,000 seed funding round from both Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. While in San Francisco, Systrom and Mike Krieger built Burbn, a HTML 5 check-in service, into a product that allowed users to do many things: check into locations, make plans (future check-ins), earn points for hanging out with friends, post pictures, and much more. However, recalling their studies in Mayfield Fellows Program, Krieger and Systrom identified that Burbn contained too many features and the users did not want a complicated product. They decided to focus on one specific feature, photo-sharing. The development of Burbn led to creation of Instagram. A month after launching, Instagram had grown to 1 million users. A year later, Instagram hit more than 10 million users.
In April 2012, Instagram, along with 13 employees, was sold to Facebook for US$1 billion in cash and stock. According to multiple reports, the deal netted Systrom US$400 million based on his ownership stake in the business. One of the key contributions to the acquisition is that Mark Zuckerberg stated Facebook is "committed to building and growing Instagram independently", allowing Systrom to continue to lead Instagram. Systrom stated in an interview with Bloomberg that the pros of becoming a part of Facebook were that "we got to pair up with a juggernaut of a company that understands how to grow, understands how to build a business, has one of the best, if not the best, management team in tech and we got to use them as our resource".
In an interview with Forbes, he stated that "Instagram is a new form of communication that's an ideal fit with the always-with-you iPhone in today's social media world. Instagram's a social network built around photos, where people can quickly comment on or 'like' photos and share them on Twitter or Facebook."  Systrom identifies Instagram as a media company, which explains the roll-out of video advertisement by big companies such as Disney, Activision, Lancome, Banana Republic and CW in late 2014.
Under Systrom's leadership, Instagram developed key features like the Explore tab, filters, and video. Over time, Instagram has rolled out features allowing users to upload and filter photographs and short videos, follow other users' feeds, geotag images, name location, and comment on other users' photographs and short videos. Instagram allowed the development of web profiles in 2012, connecting accounts to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr in 2013, an Explore tab in mid-2012, and Video in June 2013. Instagram offers 19 photographic filters; Normal, 1977, Amaro, Branna, Earlybird, Hefe, Hudson, Inkwell, Kelvin, Lo-fi, Mayfair, Nashville, Rise, Sierra, Sutro, Toaster, Valencia, Willow, X-Pro II.
As of October 2015, 40 billion pictures had been shared on Instagram.
As of June 2016, Instagram had over 500 million active users.
Also in 2016, CNN quoted a study according to which Snapchat was regarded as the most important social network among teenagers aged 14 to 19, the first time in two years that Instagram did not feature at the top.
Instagram currently employs around 450 people. The app is used by 600 million people per month and 300 million per day. Its competitors Snapchat and Twitter employ more people for a smaller user base, with Twitter having 3,500 employees for 317 million monthly users, and Snapchat employing 1,500 people for half of Instagram's daily user base.
In the future, Systrom seeks to develop Instagram further to better integrate the use of videos into the app. He also stated that in a few years, the company might be getting involved in Virtual Reality products.
According to Quartz and the New York Times, Systrom and Krieger implemented a system to overcome bottlenecks and slow decision-making in the company by scheduling meetings in which only decisions are taken. This approach was informed by Systrom's interest in academic business theories, in particular Clayton M. Christensen's concept of The Innovator's Dilemma.
Views on copying ideas in the industry
Instagram has been accused on multiple occasions for copying various new functions from its closest competitor Snapchat. Regarding the issue, Systrom argued that all new services launched by tech companies nowadays are "remixes" of existing products, and that "all of these ideas are original when you remix them and bring your own flavour". Systrom also argued that 'you can trace the roots of every feature anyone has in their app, somewhere in the history of technology' and that this was simply 'just the way Silicon Valley works.'
- Katherine Rushton (2012-01-24). "Who's getting rich from Facebook's $1bn Instagram deal?". The Telegraph.
- "Walmart Releases 2018 Annual Report, Proxy Statement, Global Responsibility Report and Global Ethics and Compliance Program Update". Walmart. April 20, 2018.
- How old is Kevin Systrom?. Quora. Retrieved on 2013-08-20.
- Kiss, Jemima (2015-10-02). "Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom: 'We're working on time travel'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- Holliston native strikes it rich with smartphone app Instagram - Framingham, MA. The MetroWest Daily News (2012-04-12). Retrieved on 2013-08-20.
- "Elizabeth V. Pels, 85". NorthJersey.com. Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
- "How Kevin Systrom of Instagram got his start". Fortune. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- "Executive Profile". Bloomberg Businessweek. 2012-04-05.
- "Instagram's Kevin Systrom: 'I'm dangerous enough to code and sociable enough to sell our company'". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- "Kevin Systrom, Mike Krieger: From Stanford to Startup [Entire Talk] | Stanford eCorner". ecorner.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- Eagle, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan. "How Google Works: hacked". Books Content Development. Retrieved 28 September 2018 – via Google Books.
- "NextStop". 2010-09-15.
- "Instagram Press". Wired. Instagram. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
- "Kevin Systrom". CrunchBase. 2012-04-15.
- Primack, Dan (April 9, 2012). "Breaking: Facebook buying Instagram for $1 billion". Fortune. Archived from the original on December 4, 2012. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
- Isaac, Marc (April 9, 2012). "Facebook Buys Instagram". Wired. Condé Nast Digital. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
- Segall, Laurie. "Kevin Systrom Build Instagram into a Media Company". CNN. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
- "Studio 1.0: Kevin Systrom Opens Up About Instagram's Life at Facebook". Bloomberg.com. 2016-10-24. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- Geron, Tomio (December 19, 2011). "Kevin Systrom Builds Instagram into a Media Company Press". Forbes. Forbes. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
- "Instagram's Video Ads Are Finally Live, and Here Are 4 From Major Brands". Adweek. Adweek. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
- Madrigal, Alexis (June 20, 2013). "#TeamVine: Instagram Has Video Now, but Not a Video-Making Culture". Wired. The Atlantic. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
- "Inside Instagram's reinvention". Recode. 2017-01-23. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- E, D (June 21, 2016). "Instagram users top 500 million". BBC. BBC. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
- King, Hope (2016-04-13). "Teens say Snapchat is 'most important social network'". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- Burgess, Matt. "Where Instagram goes next: Kevin Systrom on copying rivals, VR and cutting off dead weight". WIRED UK. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- Staley, Oliver. "To avoid paralysis, Instagram's founders hold meetings where they only make decisions". Quartz. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- Manjoo, Farhad (2017-04-26). "Why Instagram Is Becoming Facebook's Next Facebook". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- Isaac, Mike (2018-09-24). "Instagram's Co-Founders to Step Down From Company". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-09-24.
- Lyons, Kate (2018-09-25). "Instagram co-founders resign to explore 'creativity again'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
- "Instagram Copies Snapchat Once Again With Face Filters". Fortune. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- "Did Instagram copy Snapchat? Not exactly, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom says". Recode. Retrieved 2017-09-19.
- "30 Under 30 Who are Changing the World". Forbes. Forbes. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
- Vinton, Kate. "Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom Joins Billionaire Ranks As Facebook Stock Soars". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
- "Instagram's CEO Meets Pope Francis to Discuss Power of Images". Time. Retrieved 2017-05-19.