It seems as if the web is giving us new success stories every day these days, and that is just a testimonial to the powerful platform that it has grown to become. Today, Instagram is now a part of Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg acquired it for a whopping $1 Billion, but what's the story behind this silicon valley's great fairytale?
It all started when Kevin Systrom was working at Nextstop, in marketing. That's right, marketing! He had neither a formal engineering degree nor any programming skills. He started doing mash-up projects in the evenings and learnt programming in the nights. Pretty soon, his determination and will made him program a mash-up of foursquare and mafia-wars that he called "Burbn". Burbn is the pre-cursor of today's Instagram.
Burbn gains momentum
At a party, Kevin starts selling his app idea to VCs, for weeks later he builds better prototypes of burbn, and then finally manages to raise half-a-million dollars from Baseline and Andreessen Horowitz, and starts looking for a team. Soon, Mike Krieger, who co-founded along with Kevin, joins him after quitting meebo.
Kevin and Mike started a company, took a step back and looked at the product as it stood. By this time, they had built Burbn into a really neat HTML5 mobile web app that let you: Check in to locations, Make plans (future check-ins), Earn points for hanging out with friends, post pictures, and much more. This was when foursquare was also just about.
The Instagram idea
Mobile photos were one sweet spot where burbn had hit, so they planned to make a lean app which solely focused on photos. Something unique, and not just a mash-up of foursquare. But ironically, the new app was a disaster, or so Kevin has stated. Instead, they relaunched burbn and developed a fully functional iOS app, and yet somehow Kevin and Mike weren't convinced it would sell, so they started removing features from burbn. They removed all features until they were left with photo-sharing, commenting and liking, and then renamed burbn to Instagram, Instant telegram of sorts, and as Kevin says, the name sounds Camera-y.
After launching it in the app store on October 6th 2010, Instagram sky-rocketed in popularity, gaining a whopping million users in less than three months, sounds dull? Alright, In contrast when it launched on Android (which was highly anticipated) it gained one million users in, wait-for-it, a day!
The rest is history, Mark Zuckerberg felt almost threatened by it's rise, he just went out and bought it outright. Today, Kevin and Mike, the entrepreneurs who risked it all, and knew their hard-work would pay off, are happy that it did pay off. Hard work and dedication and a bit of luck, the fairytale story of Instagram.
You might also love this info graphic from Funders and Founders on "How Two Guys Made an App in 8 Weeks"