Born: December 30, 1983, Massachusetts, United States| Successful For: Online Entrepreneur (Instagram) | Zodiac Sign: Capricorn
3 Major Reasons Kevin Systrom Achieved Success With Instagram:
Kevin Systrom Trusted His Internal Map Of Passions And Intuitive Nudges:
From early on, young Kevin loved playing Doom-2 and even created his own levels. During middle school, he began programming and enjoyed it thoroughly as he would prank his friends by hacking their AOL messenger accounts. His mother worked at many start-ups including monster.com during the boom of the internet, which gave him a bird's eye view into the future. She would also inspire him to get involved with photography, which became another interest he indulged in. “I grew up as a photo nut. Every Christmas I would get a new camera. It's a huge part of my life.” Kevin was obsessed with photos and even became the president of the photography club.
As he grew older, he did not let society mold him, rather he continued doing the things that pulled him. He had no grand plan of becoming a start-up techie. Initially he was very intrigued with music and more particularly Dj’ing, which he still enjoys to this day. “The reason I loved electronic music is because I liked to DJ and I liked to bring people together,”. It was no surprise that his first job was at a record store.
Kevin Systrom was a very practical person, and going back to one of his core passions – business and technology, he decided to get into management science and engineering at Stanford. During the winter term of his third year, he attended a photography course in Florence where a professor introduced him to a cheap camera that took retro style pictures. He did not ‘major’ in computer science, however he enjoyed coding on his spare time as well creating different projects such as an internet radio station and a marketplace for students. In a funny way, his passion for things even dabbled into choosing his first company’s names; Burbn was named after his favorite drink. Following all of his intuitive nudges guided Kevin Systrom heavily to creating the successful company Instagram.
Kevin Systrom Was A Defiant Entrepreneur – Risk Adverse, Solution Orientated And He Appreciated Simplicity:
Kevin’s characteristics amounted to great entrepreneurial skillsets. Working at Google he learned marketing techniques and about the investing side of big tech deals. He left Google because it didn’t cure his itch for entrepreneurship nor the ability to be flexible. He then worked at NextStop where he got more opportunity to write code and work on apps. Eventually Kevin decided to do his own thing and left his security behind. He took a leap of faith after creating a prototype which hit home with his techie friends. He began to embrace risk.
When it came to his initial start-up of Burbn, he wasn’t afraid to approach and pitch to Baseline Ventures at a party. Thanks to his bold attitude, he received $500k in funding.
He was very solution orientated to make things simpler. He believes that “Every startup should address a real and demonstrated need in the world - if you build a solution to a problem lots of people have, it's so easy to sell your product to the world.” When Burbn was noted for being too complicating and similar to Foursquare, he made another leap and cut off the unnecessary components. “We did what any entrepreneur would do, and we threw out everything that wasn’t working and kept what worked." Kevin Systrom and his partner realized that they needed to be extremely good at just one thing – pictures! It took many more flops and failures, eventually leading them to being an app for mobile phones. It overran the features and again and took a nose dive. Thanks to a trip to Mexico and his girlfriend’s insight about filters – he went back to his room and jumped on the Wi-Fi to make more adjustments and added the filter option - which became a hit.
Kevin Systrom Embraced “Mastery” And Valued Knowledge Over A Quick Buck:
Kevin Systrom chose education over money. Kevin declined an offer by Mark Zuckerberg himself to work for Facebook and exit a year early from Stanford because he valued his education. As fate would have it, his company would later be bought out by the Facebook giants for $1 billion. “Working at a startup to make a lot of money was never a thing, and that’s why I decided to just finish up school. That was way more important for me,”.
He worked for several giant companies where he furthered his knowledge by working for Odeo (now Twitter) as an intern and then at companies like Google and Microsoft. He became close friends with Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, whom he worked alongside with and also picked his brain about the industry. “I learned so much from Ev and Jack. The whole thing was really eye-opening for me.” Kevin understood that knowledge was both practical and experience based - and learning from others was crucial. ‘We all learn a lot from each other’s companies. The most important thing for me was working at Google and Odeo, and meeting people along the way. The Valley is a really small place and you should want to learn from people because there’s so much going on.’
“One thing about my background is I get very obsessed with something”. Kevin was always heavily involved with the idea of mastering things to the T. He gravitated towards trying new things and mastering whatever he took interest in, he wasn’t afraid to step into the unknown, in fact, he embraced it. This led Kevin to becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable and then learning how to perfect it. He got addicted to music and collected huge stacks of records. He became fixated on photography and even built a photo site with his fraternity brothers to share party pictures. And then he became obsessed with programming and technology. Ultimately, he began to combine his interests and created Instagram. "I think not focusing on money makes you sane because in the long run it can probably drive you crazy."
"If you've got an idea, start today. There's no better time than now to get going. That doesn't mean quit your job and jump into your idea 100% from day one, but there's always small progress that can be made to start the movement."
- Quote by Kevin Systrom
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