Launched in October 2010, Instagram is an app which allows people to click pictures, add filters to it and let them share those on the different social networking sites. Wondering why instagram when there are a million like it ? Well lets start with its unusually square pictures. Instead of the universally used 4:3 aspect ratio, its unique feature gives it an upper hand which is perfect for mobile device apps. Secondly, 5 million users in six months forces you to think, “why instagram”. Apart from this Mark Zuckerberg’s interest in instagram grabbed everyone’s attention.
Instagram came in when Kevin Systrom and Michel (Mike) Krieger focused on multi-featured HTML 5 check-in project Burbn on mobile photography. It was initially supported only on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch; and later in April 2012, for Android 2.2 (froyo) or higher. It is distributed via the iTunes App Store and Google Play. While in Nextstop, Kevin was playing around with programs when he figured he could build a prototype of the idea in HTML5 and get it to some friends. He spent a lot of time working on the prototype for his friends. One day, he ran into Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz to whom he showed the prototype, and decided to leave his job and see if Burbn could be a company. Within two weeks of resigning, he raised $500k from both Baseline and Andreessen Horowitz, and started work on finding a team.
Another ‘why’ that comes upon is, its simplified clicking, adding a filter and uploading. Nothing too complex, nothing very different. So why did it become a billion dollar company ? Kevin did something which no one else did. Go viral on mobile phones. He created a platform based on emotions. Something very different from which facebook does. He said-
People love Instagram. It is my single most-used app. I spend an hour a day on Instagram. I have made friends based on photos they share. I know how they feel, and how they see the world. Facebook lacks soul. Instagram is all soul and emotion.
The most important turn was when facebook acquired instagram for $ 1 billion in cash and stock. It cost Facebook about a quarter of the cash-on-hand as at the end of 2011. This deal left a thousand mouths wide open. Nobody even in their dreams had expected this to happen. The question was, what made Zuckerberg acquire instagram at twice the valuation that professional venture investors were putting on it? This is what his blog said-
This is an important milestone for Facebook because it’s the first time we’ve ever acquired a product and company with so many users. We don’t plan on doing many more of these, if any at all. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.
Why I think Zuckerberg did it was because he knew instagram was something which could have hindered Facebook’s future. Going viral on mobile devices was one thing facebook did not focus on, instagram did. Facebook’s mobile platform (including its app) was not very good and that is where Kevin Systrom shot. But something Zuckerberg was most scared of, was mobile photo sharing.
Instagram had a long long way to go. But rising from a platform to making a business is not an easy game. So, I think this explains why instagram decided to cash in their chips.
Contributed by Vinayak Bajaj.
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