It has been a magical few months for Instagram, a mobile photo-sharing app and service. The company, which started as geo-local web app, Burbn, changed directions a few months into its life to refocus on sharing photos via handsets.
The app, which combines a Twitter-styled social network with image filters and photo sharing, has focused exclusively on the iPhone and has seen its growth explode. It now has more than 3.2 million users, co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom told me last week when he stopped by our office to record a GigaOM Startup Session.
I’m an Instagram addict, and have spent countless hours on the network, sifting through beautiful moments from the lives of absolute strangers. The app has taken to me to breathtaking places–Paris, Rio, Tokyo, Seoul and New York — all within a matter of minutes. Beautiful vistas from the American South to snowy Toronto are all there. Instagram is my very own Discovery channel. This addictive quality is why I wrote about the company in my post, Why some Apps Work and Some Don’t.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the venture capitalists. Benchmark Capital’s Matt Cohler (formerly of LinkedIn and Facebook) knows a thing or two about social networks, and has invested $7 million in the company along with well-known entrepreneurs including former Facebook CTO Adam D’Angelo and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey.
Systrom, in this must-see-TV for all app developers, shares the story of Instagram, how it made product related decisions, the filters and why photos on mobiles rock. My only regret when doing this interview: I never got to spend time with Mike Krieger, Instagram’s other co-founder. Here are some highlights from the interview:
- Filters transform dull, everyday moments. They bring a mood to the moment.
- The hottest filters, how Instagram names them and if filters really get voted off the app.
- Instagram has 3.2 million users and over a third of them are overseas. Systrom explains how that happened and why Instagram is growing so fast in places like Japan, Korea, China and Brazil.
- Instagram’s early days and where it is going.
- Will there be Instagram for Android?
- The switch from Burbn to Instagram, and why that happened.
Later in the interview, Systrom shares lessons from his entrepreneurial journey:
- Entrepreneurship is a process of conviction building.
- We don’t do too many things; we do a few things and we do them really well.
- We scratched our own itch and built products for us.