What The Founders of Instagram Did Differently to Achieve Massive Success

Have you ever wondered what it takes to create a $1 Billion product, have millions of happy users and change the way people share stuff and communicate in 18 months? Well, the founders of Instagram do know the answer to that.

Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom launched a simple and easy to use app back in 2010. Its purpose was to let people take beautiful photos and instantly share them on multiple social media channels.

1. Less beats more

When it comes to design and usability, the founders of Instagram know that it’s better to exclude anything that’s not essential, so that what actually matters can stand out.
The very first genius in the minimalist era of technology was Steve Jobs. He knew that simpler was better and people weren’t craving more features and additional products, they just wanted to know how to use this one and do it fast.

2. Add emotion to the equation

People buy on emotion. There’s rarely much sense in why they do what they do, simply because it’s all about emotional triggers. That’s another key thing that separates top brands from the rest.

You may think that Instagram is a free mobile app and a social network where you can share photos and short videos. But, in reality, it’s much more than that.

Kevin Systrom loved taking pictures and even got a new camera every Christmas. He was truly passionate about photography and knew taking pictures was a form of art. So he added that when creating the product. Here’s how he describes what Instagram is all about:

“Every photo you take communicates something about a moment in time – a brief slice of time of where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing.”

The average user may not be getting to the deeper meaning of every selfie he takes, but he sure feels the effect. That’s why he comes back to Instagram and tells everyone about it.

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Such is the power of emotion and passion added to a product. No strategic marketing can imitate it.

3. Launch sooner and make improvements

The founders of Instagram followed an advice we know from The Lean Startup – build a minimum viable product, get it out there in the hands of the right users, get feedback and make changes to improve your creation consistently.

Too many startups fail because they try to add all the features they can think of to the product. Often it turns out that people don’t even need most of them.

So keep it simple. Set one goal, answer one need and let your product be the solution for that. You’ll make it better once you hear what people actually think about it.

4. Focus on the right  metric

Everyone’s goal is to make revenue from day one. But big ideas that turn into billion dollar businesses do things differently. You may have noticed, for example, that Facebook has always been all about growing users.

The money will follow. But Mark Zuckerberg knew that the product first had to be in the hands of the mass. He even bought Instagram 2 years after its creation for a billion dollars, even though the platform still wasn’t making any money. However, it had a huge fan base – literally millions of users.

In today’s world, it’s about reaching the audience first. Making money is an inevitable result of that.

5. No need for big teams

Photo by "Scott Beale / Laughing Squid" and link the credit to

Instagram team on January 21, 2011. Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid


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Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom say no to the need for more people in a team. Instead, they prefer to work with a few passionate individuals who know what they are doing.

The two founders of Instagram know that great products come from a great team. They’ve done their best to carefully pick people who care about what they do, who have talent but are also eager to learn, who have potential and want to contribute to the vision of the company.

Once you choose such people from the very beginning, productivity won’t be an issue. Everyone will be working in what matters, ideas will flow, communication will be smooth and passion will be part of the end result. That’s something every user will feel when using the product.

So, focus on having a small team, but with smart and ambitious people full of enthusiasm.

6. Choose one core option and be the best at it

When you set too many goals at once, you usually don’t get closer to any of them. When we try to get everything done, we get nothing done.

It’s just that we tend to perform best when it’s all about one thing. That’s how our mind works. So instead of complaining about that, why not master that one thing and use it to create a remarkable product.

The founders of Instagram had one core option to focus since day one, when the app was just an idea: Its purpose, which was making your photos look awesome.

Together with that, it lets you upload them on all the other most popular social networks in a matter of seconds, connect with like-minded people using hashtags and keep up with friends and current events.

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But in its essence, it’s about making your photos stand out. Thus keeping your memories alive, letting your friends see and share them. In the end, all looks great and it’s easy to use.

Instagram’s filters made a huge difference in the way people took pictures and presented themselves online. Almost everyone makes a quick change to a photo before uploading now, even if it doesn’t need any correction. It’s just the norm.

That’s what happens when you build unique products that people love – you create the norm. That’s also the only way to achieve massive success in the business world.

There’s a lot we can learn from what the founders of Instagram did differently. It’s important to keep in mind that they are average people, just like you and me, but who had a vision and took action to turn it into reality, put a lot of effort and time to build something that will make people’s lives more pleasant. And all that without being impatient for the money to come.

So why not follow their steps and see where that will take you? There’s a lot of competition out there, but people are still desperately looking for the next remarkable product to buy that will change their daily life and make them feel more special.

Be a creator instead of a consumer. Fill a need. It all starts with a simple idea. And the first step can be as simple as writing it down on a piece of paper or doing your research online. Just start.



Article By Lidiya K.

Main photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

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Categories:   Entrepreneurship, Innovation