Entrepreneurship in the Internet Age: The Instagram Case

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What makes one internet based start-up work over all the other duds? Is it skill or luck? Or a combination that results in the right market, right timing, right place, right people and right approach? Instagram, who last week was bought off by Facebook for a cool $1 billion, is certainly an example of the universe smiling happily on a company.

Instagram was launched on the 6th October 2010. On day one, 25 000 users showed up. In three months, Instagram hit one million users. Instagram is sitting with +30 million users at present. Organic growth, and not marketing strategies underpin this massive growth. Making this a very cost effective scaling up.

The Instagram Story

Instagram was co founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. They started off by simply playing around with a number of apps, looking at functionality, social capacity, capacity to have fun etc and eventually began development on their own app. Their app had as few actions as possible, didn’t force users to add tags about people or places to their photos. A photo could be posted in as few as three clicks. This made their app easy to use and pleasing for users.

Even with the massive uptake of users, Instagram kept its app lean and didn’t change much of the essential experience. Their focus was on creating growth in numbers.

Some of the Lessons that are put forward by Instagram based on their Experience are:

  • Simplicity counts- build the cleanest system with the fewest moving parts
  • Trust the killer idea. Don’t over optimize, you never can predict how a system needs to scale up. You will have to test it, you cant expect to know ahead of time
  • Don’t think that someone else will join and take care of things, you need to be hands on
  • You will need to scale up sooner than you think, so surround yourself with great advisors
  • 2 backend engineers can scale a system to +30 million users
  • When adding software to a stack, optimize for operational simplicity
  • There are very few if any, unsolvable scaling challenges for a start up
  • Have fun

You can view Mike Krieger’s slide deck on how they scaled Instagram below:

Mike Krieger, Instagram at the Airbnb tech talk, on Scaling Instagram

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