Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom says Instagram losing autonomy under Facebook is actually a testament to its success

Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for GirlbossInstagram co-founder and former CEO Kevin Systrom
  • Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger reportedly left the company last fall because they were upset about the loss of the site’s autonomy within parent company Facebook.
  • But losing autonomy wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, co-founder and former CEO Kevin Systrom said at SXSW on Monday, saying that “there being less autonomy is a function of Instagram winning.”
  • Systrom declined to go into more details about how Instagram’s loss of autonomy manifested itself, saying “that’s not a topic I’m interested in recounting in front of everyone.”

AUSTIN, TEXAS – When Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger announced they were leaving the company last fall, multiple reports attributed it to them being upset about the loss of its autonomy within parent company Facebook.

But speaking at SXSW on Monday, Instagram co-founder and former CEO Kevin Systrom said that the loss of autonomy was, in a way, a testament to Instagram’s growth and success.

“In some ways, there being less autonomy is a function of Instagram winning,” Systrom said. “It’s just an unavoidable thing if you’re successful.”

He added that Instagram could have remained a niche app for photographers. But it improved and got better and instead “got to a size where it was meaningfully important” to the company.

“You can choose: do you want to be unsuccessful and small and have all the autonomy in the world, or not?” he said.

Krieger agreed with his co-founder’s views, saying that companies that succeed internally become so important to the acquiring company that it’s “irresponsible” not to think about “the right models of integration.”

When asked by moderator and TechCrunch editor-at-large Josh Constine how that loss of autonomy manifested itself, Systrom declined to offer more details.

“That’s not a topic I’m interested in recounting in front of everyone,” he said. “Honestly, it doesn’t actually matter, because what matters is whether or not Instagram continues to succeed.”

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