Want To Have An Exit Like Instagram? Here's Something Every Founder Needs to Know

The Instagram team just scored a huge $1 billion exit, selling the company to Facebook. Here’s one of the most important lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from CEO Kevin Systrom, to get to an exit like this:

Adapt and and pivot when your initial idea doesn’t work out (because chances are it won’t).

Before Instagram there was Burbn. Haven’t heard of it? No surprise. Burbn, a mobile social check-in app with game features, quietly dropped off of Systrom’s LinkedIn profile recently, but in March 2010 was making headlines for scoring $500K from Andreessen Horowitz and other investors. 

So what happened? Not enough, apparently.

Here’s what Systrom said about the pivot as of last fall, at a Disrupt conference:

“I’ve heard that Plan A is never the product entrepreneurs actually end up with.  I didn’t believe it…In many ways, Burbn was getting a bunch of press, but it wasn’t taking off the way we thought it would.  We found people loved posting pictures, and that photos were the thing that stuck. Mike, my cofounder, and I sat down and thought about the one thing that made the product unique and interesting, and photos kept coming up.” The pivot was one of the most difficult — and best — decisions he made, the CEO said.

You can hear more about getting the guts to do a deep pivot at Startup 2012, Business Insider’s fourth-annual conference on entrepreneurship and business-plan competition, taking place May 3 in New York. Jason Goldberg, the Fab CEO who turned the company from a daily-deals site for gay men to a design-focused storefront, will reveal how he pivoted successfully, as will other successful founders. You’ll also learn about:

  • How to overcome rejection, especially when influential tech people tell you “no”

The founder of online-conversation site Branch, Josh Miller, was rejected from elite tech incubator Y Combinator. Burn. Fast forward and he’s scored seed funding from Twitter’s co-founders and from SV Angel, some of the most coveted capital in Silicon Valley. How’d he swerve around rejection? He’ll tell us on May 3.  

  • Which skills you ACTUALLY need to found a company

Do you need to know several programming languages? Have business training? Which skills are critical, when? A handful of brilliant founders are going to tackle this topic at Startup. Gina Bianchini, the serial entrepreneur who co-founded Ning and is now at the helm of Mightybell, will speak on launching a venture without a hugely technical background — and without a technical co-founder. Ben Milne, the Dwolla founder who is taking on the global credit-card system, is going to tell us how he runs his business as a dropout who was never taught code. You’ll also hear a robust debate on whether to drop out. Come learn more by grabbing your ticket here.

You’ll also see the finalists of the business-plan competition go head-to-head with sceptical VCs at the conference. Out of hundreds of applicants that came in last month, one will be awarded at Startup with $75,000 in cash and prizes to grow their business. The 2010 winner, Redbeacon, was acquired by Home Depot this year for an amount that left them “very pleased.”

And BI is inviting feedback from founders and entrepreneurs: what are we missing? What else should we be covering at Startup? Let us know in the comments, below.

See you there in May!

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.