Photo: Flickr / LeWEB11
Before becoming a millionaire hundreds of times over when Facebook bought his startup for $1 billion, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom spoke at Business Insider’s Ignition West conference just a few weeks ago.At the conference, Kevin and I had a conversation that is, in retrospect, pretty enlightening.
I told Kevin that Instagram, which is an easy-to-use, fast, photo-sharing app, was just about the only reason I used Facebook anymore.
I said I take photos on my phone and, through Instagram, share them onto Facebook. I did that instead of using the Facebook app to take photos because the Facebook app is painfully slow.
What Kevin said to that was: “Please don’t tell them that!”
Then I said to Kevin that I hoped Instagram would someday allow users to tag their Facebook friends in photos in the app, instead of forcing them to do it later, on Facebook.
What Kevin said to that was something like (pharaphrasing): I’d love that too. But it’s not in the Facebook API, and I don’t expect Facebook to change that soon. We are the only app that would want it. The sense I get is that they aren’t going to put a lot of resources toward making us more successful.
Now that Instagram has been acquired by Facebook, it’s easy to look back at it as a huge threat to an incumbent that was forced to pay up to escape disruption.
But the truth was, it was a an app built on the incumbent’s turf, and just as easily as Facebook bought Instagram, it could have crushed it in a second. And Kevin knew it.
He was as worried as he was hopeful.
I suppose that’s the mix any entrepreneur aiming for disruption has to expect.
Running between the toes of giants, they call it, right?
You either get stomped to spit or swooped to insane heights.
(By the way, if you want to randomly bump into people like Kevin Systrom, you should come to our conference in New York next week.)