Kevin Systrom is a computer programmer and entrepreneur best known for developing the social photo-based app Burbn and its successor Instagram. When Facebook acquired Instagram, Systrom remained CEO for another six years before quitting in 2018.
As a management science and engineering student at Stanford University, Systrom was selected to participate in the Mayfield Fellows Program. He was one of 12 students to intern at Odeo, a directory website for RSS-syndicated podcasts that would later become Twitter.
Systrom also turned down a job offer from Mark Zuckerberg around this time. He later recounted the story to Fast Company in 2011: “Unfortunately, I decided I wanted to stay in school, and that’s one of those decisions that I look back at – I would’ve loved to have been part of Facebook’s growth over the years, but it was the first time I met those guys”.
Post-graduation, Systrom joined Google in 2006 where he spent most of his time as an Associate Product Marketing Manager. Before long he moved into the Corporate Development Team but left the company in January 2009.
NextStop and Burbn
With former Google co-workers, Systrom worked as a product manager at the social travel recommendation platform NextStop.
In his spare time, he also learned how to write code and later created Burbn – the location-based social app mentioned earlier.
After Systrom secured half a million dollars in seed funding for Burbn, he hired fellow Stanford graduate and programmer Mike Krieger to refine the app. Ultimately, the app had too many features and was released in an extremely competitive market.
But the pair realized that the photo-sharing feature was popular and showed potential. They removed all of the non-essential features of Burbn and were left with a bare-bones app where users could share, like, and comment on photos.
Systrom also had an epiphany about the introduction of filters to the app. When he heard that his wife was hesitant to share her photos online, he discovered that she felt they were not as good as those produced by a mutual friend on Burbn who was using filters.
Instagram was released in October 2010 after a short, eight-week build.
Systrom resigned from Instagram on September 24, 2018, after six years as CEO – a relatively long period for an entrepreneur to remain involved after selling their company. The move was seen as abrupt and no concrete explanation was ever provided, but some believed there was tension between the pair and Zuckerberg over Instagram’s future direction.
Nevertheless, he served as a visionary over those years and was instrumental in selling the idea of a Metaverse and VR/AR integration.
Since his departure, Systrom has kept a low profile and now devotes time to his family and creative pursuits. He did however partner with Krieger once more to develop a live COVID-19 tracker as the virus took hold in 2020.
Some months later, The New York Times reported that he had been unsuccessfully approached by TikTok for a leadership position.
- Kevin Systrom is a computer programmer and entrepreneur best known for developing the social photo-based app Burbn and its successor Instagram.
- Early on, Systrom held various positions at NextStop, Odeo, and Burbn. All of these equipped him with the knowledge and experience to develop Instagram with programmer and colleague Mike Krieger.
- Systrom resigned from Instagram on September 24, 2018, after six years as CEO. He has since devoted himself to other pursuits and kept a relatively low profile.