Some might call them lucky. They launched a photo app, got 100,000 users in their first week, and sold it for $1 billion less than two years later.
Instagram co-founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, will be the first to tell you they encountered some luck, as any business does. But Instagram’s success isn’t 100% attributable to luck.
Instagram solved real problems. Systrom says that entrepreneurs “should not be afraid to have simple solutions to simple problems.” At Instagram, they focused on solving three problems. Their solutions were:
Making photos beautiful
Sharing on multiple social networks
Uploading photos quickly
Krieger and Systrom have shared some of what they learned along the way and what they recommend for other entrepreneurs:
Hire Smart and Passionate People
“I look for passion. I think smart people are passionate people. When you ask them what they’re really good at and what they’re really passionate about, usually they can explain it in a way that makes you get inspired about something. Whether that’s about cocktail making or cooking or coding. Smart people have passions in life and that’s really what I look for….
“We’re not into brain teasers or anything like that. We just want to work through problems with people. That’s really what matters at the end of the day is if you can sit down with someone and work through a tough technical problem together.”
Systrom says that it’s important to find smart people with a lot of potential and put trust in them.
The only person holding you back is yourself:
“Fear…is the one thing that keeps people from doing the biggest things in the world….when people have passions I think they hold themselves back from them because of a fear. I think people just feel like ‘Oh, well, they’re just not that talented’…I actually truly believe any person here could create the next Instagram….I think it’s really people that hold themselves back, and I think the way around that is by letting yourself be a little crazy.”
What kills most startups:
“The lack of a dark moment. Because you keep going and you keep going and you go sideways. And you’re not going up, you’re not going down, you’re just going sideways. You get a trickle of users in; you’re working on something that excites people, but not that much. And the hardest part of going from Burbn to Instagram was actually realizing that we had to do something new. And making that decision was one of the hardest parts of my entrepreneurial career.”
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