CEO Kevin Systrom reveals the $37 billion 'a-ha moment' that spawned Instagram

Today, Instagram is worth a reported $US37 billion.  

It’s a haven of celebrities. Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, and Nicki Minaj have more than 20 million followers each

But every startup has a start.

Founder Kevin Systrom stumbled into Instagram thanks to his girlfriend, a stray dog, and a beach. 

It was 2010. Systrom, a Stanford grad and a former Google employee, had founded Burbn, a location-based app that operated kind of like Foursquare — people could check in, make plans, and send pictures. 

But it was too complicated. Users thought the features were too confusing

It was time for a pivot. 

As Systrom tells the Telegraph, the “aha moment” came care of his now-fiance Nicole Schuetz: 

We were walking along the beach and I said that we needed something to help us [the company] stand out. Nicole then said, “Well, I don’t want to take photos, because my photos don’t look good. They’re not as good as your other friend Greg’s.”

He was also using the early product [Burbn]. I told her that was because Greg used filter apps. So she just said, “Well, you should probably have filters then.”

So they went back to their bed and breakfast. 

Systrom sat at a computer, tried to figure out how to make a filter. 

It has a name you might be familiar with. 

“That filter was X-Pro II, which still exists today, in its original form, in the app,” Systrom says. “The funny thing is if you look at the first photo ever on Instagram, it’s of Nicole — well, her foot — a stray dog and a taco stand in Mexico. Had I known it was going to be the first photo on Instagram I would have tried a bit harder.”

Here it is: 


That shot was uploaded on July 16, 2010. 

On October 6, 2010, Burbn would officially become Instagram.

Over 25,000 people downloaded it in less than 24 hours, the Telegraph reports, and by December it hit a million users. 

With a stunning amount of speed, Instagram became a thing — and quickly found an exit. In April 2012, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook would acquire it for $US1 billion. Now that decision is looking smarter and smarter for Zuck. 

NOW WATCH: This simple exercise will work out every muscle in your body

NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

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