How Instagram Started

From Whiskey to  World's Most Popular Photo-sharing Platform

Instagram is perhaps the defining app of the last decade and this makes sense because was actually 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 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 obviously wasn't always this way how did two nerds from Stanford University make a billion dollar company worthy of Royals and presidents how did Instagram start in the first place how big is it and what are some fun and interesting facts about the company.

How Instagram Started


Origin of Instagram

So as you could probably guess the impetus for what would become known as Instagram was 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 enjoyed his fine bourbon and whiskey a lot so much so that he coded an app called bourbon the purpose of bourbon was so that people could make plans check into locations were those good drinks to be had and share photos although a Stanford University graduate Kevin had no prior experience with computer science despite his previous employment at Google while working at another startup in his spare time he learned to code on nights and weekends at this point the Bourbon app was just 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. 

Kevin's Party

A crucial turning point came in March of 2010 when Kevin attended a party the party was for a Silicon Valley startup called hutch it was here that Kevin met - venture capitalists he showed them the prototype of the Bourbon app and they were impressed they all decided to meet for coffee to discuss the idea further after the very first meeting Kevin took a leap of faith and decided to quit his job to focus on Bourbon within only just two weeks he managed to raise $500,000 in seed funding from the venture capitalists seemed out of the party with this money he began assembling a group and the first to join was Brazilian 25 year old Mike Krieger Kevin had first met Mike during their time at Stanford and they'd kept in touch afterwards so it was a simple decision for the two to work together.

Designing a Hit - The Instagram

instagram founders

So now came the time to try and figure out how to make this bourbon app a hit although the app had check-in and messaging features photo sharing turned out to be the most popular feature also there were many other similar apps on the market for example Foursquare they needed to focus on just one aspect of the app and cut the rest it was at this point that bourbon pivoted to become more focused on photo sharing with likes and comments at this point they would change the name to Instagram a combination of instant camera and telegram. as the week's wore on the small team worked tirelessly to improve the photo sharing capabilities in just eight weeks of adjusting the application they offered it to their friends for a beta test they ended up fixing bugs and when they were satisfied they decided to launch it was Showtime. 

Instagram was launched in 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 this was a total surprise and shortly after Kevin would take to the forum Quora to voice his excitement quote we never expected the mind-boggling reaction that was seen we went from truly a bunch of clients to the number one free photography application in only hours this growth only continued and by mid-december they had 1 million users you have to remember that at this point they were just a couple of young guys.

There is a quote from Mike to highlight that "one time I woke up and there was an email saying that the site went down and I was like who fixed it Shane did you fix it keV did you fix it " no so apparently at 3:30 in the morning a somehow managed to in a completely drunken state revive Instagram that's how much was struggling in those days 

Instagram's user base kept expanding and investors soon took notice by early 2011 the come was valued at 25 million dollars at this time they added a motor staff Jack Dorsey of Twitter tried to buy them out but the 500 million dollar price tag wasn't enough for co-founder Kevin by March 2012 the applications user base had swelled to 27 million in April Facebook would buy them out for a billion dollars the key arrangement was that Instagram would remain autonomous and that brings us to the modern era we Instagram has become ubiquitous 

Some interesting and fun facts about Instagram 

well in 2020 it's becoming less about influences and more about businesses for instance 80% of user accounts follow a business on Instagram 33% of the most viewed stories are from businesses 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 this is followed by Nike and then the NBA there's been some criticism of the platform the negative effects on body image among the young are at the forefront as comparison is the depletion of joy in other words when people see the amount of likes that someone has in their photos and they compare themselves to them they end up feeling miserable in an effort to combat this in 2019 the company made the decision to roll out a removal of likes and certain posts now this next one's interesting surprisingly eighty-nine point five percent of all Instagram photos are posted normally with no Instagram filter added at all Instagram is now estimated to be worth 100 billion dollars, 37% of all adults in the United States use the platform. 

The company is still fairly lean and only employs 550 people around the world she is a question take a guess on what the most Instagram food is you got it well it's Pizza 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 Jenner.In a nod towards co-founder Brazil has the second largest amount of Instagram users after the United States.

world record egg


The conclusion

So what ended up happening to our two founders well in 2018 both founders would leave to pursue other projects though Kevin Systrom is now billionaire according to the Guardian he now enjoys fine food golf skiing and holidays meanwhile the other co-founder Mike actively takes part in philanthropy so what's the main takeaway from here what can 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 well Kevin loved bourbon and whiskey 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. 

Once Kevin said in a Interview "So I think everyone you know this starts to start up you deal with different scales but you should always try to understand what you want your startup to be you know if it hits 300 million active users right and I remember talking with the folks really early at Twitter and one guy specifically and he was pitching like someday you know celebrities and artists are gonna use this to you community with their fans and I remember thinking yeah right there's no way that's gonna happen but the key insight there was they were thinking about it from day one and for us we've always wanted to create an open platform for visual media so the ability to tune into anywhere in the world at a moment's notice so if there's something happening overseas we want you to be able to tune in and experience that through images so if there's a protest overseas or if there's like let's say the World Series is going on or the World Cup right or the Tour de France or some big event happening or receives like the Tokyo earthquakes we want you to be able to tune in to the world and see things in a way that you haven't been able to see them before".

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