Instagram is perhaps the most popular social media platform. The rise of the photo-sharing service is nothing less than a fairy tale. In less than 2 years after it was founded, and with 13 employees only, the company was sold to Facebook for $1 billion in cash and stock. But how exactly did Instagram rise and grow so exponentially? Keep reading to find out the history of Instagram.
Instagram launched on Oct. 06, 2010, and the company gained staggering momentum in just a few months. The company is the epitome of an idea entering the right market at the right time, and being a great product-market fit. So how exactly did the idea to ignite social communication through images come around?
The history of Instagram is a really interesting one. The company was created by co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. Kevin wanted to be his own boss, work for himself, and yeah make money too. Even before Kevin found Instagram, he was already exposed to the rise of the social media circuit. He was approached by Mark Zuckerberg to work on creating Facebook with him, which he turned down. Moreover, at a startup fellowship program, he worked for ODEO, which went on to become Twitter.
Kevin did not know how to code, so he spent his nights learning it. He worked at a tech startup during the day and would do his own thing later. After graduating, Kevin met Mike at a cafe, where they came up with an idea for an app. No, it wasn’t Instagram.
If you are familiar with Burbn, then you are amongst the rare few. A lot of people are not aware that Instagram was originally launched as Burbn, which was a different concept altogether. The idea was inspired by Kevin’s liking for fine whiskeys and bourbons. The app allowed users to share their location, pictures, and what they felt like sharing. Although, location sharing applications had become quite popular, however, the photo-sharing feature of Burbn was unique.
Though it had the photo-sharing element, however, Burbn was nothing like Instagram. It was simply a check-in app. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger both got excited about their idea. Kevin met investors at a bar, where he was able to secure an investment of $50,000 from Steve Anderson. The word about Burbn soon spread, and the two co-founders were able to secure further investment. However, despite the great buzz, the market did not react that well to Burbn, and the app failed.
Birth of Instagram
Kevin and Mike played a very smart move after Burbn failed to attract the market. They pivoted! This is something that most founders are unable to do. The two individuals did not cling on to the idea of Burbn, nor did they try to fix it. They accepted it just wasn’t good enough.
Both founders turned towards there existing users and asked them for feedback. They found out that majority of the users were attracted to the photo-sharing feature of the app only. They did not care about any of the other features. Kevin and Mike truly defined the essence of learning from failure. They decided to focus on creating a photo-sharing app, and that is how Instagram was born. They weren’t the first photo-sharing app on the market by any means. However, what set them apart, was a great user experience that they were offering. Their USP was the feature to post great photos to lots of friends all at once.
Acquisition by Facebook
In just 8 weeks, they launched Instagram. The platform blew up, and in just 24 hours they had an estimated 25,000 users. In just a month they had 1 million users on the app.
As Instagram gained popularity, investors started to become really interested in it. On 11th February, the company raised $7 million from Benchmark Capital in Series A funding. Apart from investors, Instagram also attracted companies like Facebook and Twitter. Twitter reportedly made an offer of $500 million in stock which Kevin declined. However, when Mark Zuckerberg offered to buy Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock, Kevin and Mike agreed. They realized that Facebook was the right company to take over, and Instagram would be able to scale much more exponentially if it was backed by Facebook.
The history of Instagram is certainly a really impressive and inspiring one. Launching a company in 8 weeks, growing it and selling it for $1 billion in 2 years is a massive achievement. What you get to learn from the Instagram story, is that pivoting is not a bad thing. In fact, most of the immensely successful companies are ones that pivoted.