Founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger talk about keeping their identity after being bought by Facebook for $1 billion.
This is the story of entrepreneurs Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, as told to Inc. staff writer Eric Markowitz.
Systrom: Before Instagram even launched, we would just go and go and go. We started around 9 or 10 in the morning and finished at 10. Sometimes, we’d be there until 3 or 4.
Krieger: We had two desks back then.
Systrom: Being scrappy hasn’t changed much. We still stay here till 10 sometimes.
Krieger: We’re pretty tightly packed in our new space, but we’ve made it feel like home. We brought some things that made our old office feel “Instagram-y.” We have a huge wall of vintage cameras and old video recorders, just like our old office.
Systrom: We also just installed two big screens. We have CNN and MSNBC on throughout the day to follow breaking news, so we can search for representative photos to post on our blog--ike demonstrations outside the Supreme Court, for instance. There are other things, like our bourbon collection.
On Fridays after 4 p.m., you see people mosey on over to the bourbon case. We also kept our coffee-making station, where people do individual drip coffees. People really love their caffeine.
Krieger: For two and a half years, I was in the “doing” seat--writing code and building infrastructure. Now, it’s about growing the team and making sure the team is running well. At first, I was like, “Ah, I wish I was coding.” But you can get so much more done once you imbue a whole team with a particular culture. It’s an amazing feeling.
Systrom: If anything, work for me has become more complex and more nuanced.
Krieger: We also have access to Facebook’s resources. If you notice, when you browse Facebook, there’s basically no spam. As Instagram was growing, we were more and more a target of spammers.
At the time, we had maybe six engineers, two of whom were available to work on this problem part time. So we asked Facebook for help. They put a team of 20-plus on it.
Systrom: I really hate the word synergy, but Facebook brings us to a level that we wouldn’t have reached independently. And we have a lot of autonomy. We decide our road map, how we’re going to change our product, whom we’re going to hire. I see Mark [Zuckerberg] probably every other day. But it’s like two founders talking, rather than reporting to your boss.
Krieger: I would read stories about how other companies were acquired, and it was like, “How do we make you look like us?” And things would fall apart. At Facebook, it’s like, “How can I help? What can we learn from you?”