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The Mobile 15: Our picks for the most innovative companies

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Instagram (Facebook)

CEO: Kevin Systrom

Number of employees: 12

The business:

Instagram is a mobile photo sharing service and social network that allows users to apply filters to their smartphone pictures before uploading them to the Instagram community and other social networks. The social service, which now has 100 million users, originally debuted on iOS in 2010 but made the leap to Android in April 2012. It was then acquired by Facebook in a deal valued (at the time) at $1 billion. As the acquisition closed just two weeks ago, for this list we evaluated Instagram as a separate company.

The backstory:

The app was born after co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger pivoted away from their first idea, a location-based check-in service called Burbn. After working up a web app for Burbn, the two decided to focus on one aspect: mobile photo sharing. They rebuilt the app as a native iOS app and removed all the non-photo features.

The innovation:

While Instagram sounds like a simple photo sharing service with filters, it stood out for a few reasons. It was built from the ground up for mobile as a two-way communication service. It allowed people to engage in simple creative expression without forcing them to get too involved. And it turned photos into a kind of mobile language that imparted feelings and a sense of a place through geo-tags, which prompted immediate feedback from users.

The plan:

Now that the acquisition has closed, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he wants to let Instagram continue to grow without too much tampering by Facebook. He said the goal was to turn Instagram’s 100 million users into hundreds of millions of users.


14 Responses to “The Mobile 15: Our picks for the most innovative companies”

  1. Including Nokia and **not** Qualcomm renders your list laughable, and from the entire staff to boot ? No need reading any further and further questions the value of anything

    Jim M

  2. Surya Narayanan

    Sadly you have not looked at the emerging markets hard enough. You would have found very interesting examples including Safaricom’s m-pesa which is by the larger than Western Union Money Transfer. Please look to create a more inclusive list..

    • mobithinking1

      It would have been good to consider the social impact of innovations. There are so many innovative mobile companies out there, but if they don’t make people’s lives better then do they really answer the “so what?” test. M-PESA is a great example of a mobile innovation that has changed millions of people’s lives and is helping to create a vibrant mobile ecosystem. Its influence can be seen in every mobile wallet/banking/payments initiative the world over.
      If you don’t know M-PESA, read this: