Among the different photo-sharing apps that can be easily downloaded these days, Instagram stands out above the rest. Since its launch in 2010, it quickly gained popularity with 100,000 registered users in its first week and over 700 million as of April 2017! In 2012, Facebook acquired it for approximately $1 billion in cash and stocks. Add to that, this app’s co-founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom is now on Forbes’ list of new billionaires!

Some might call it luck, but Instagram’s success cannot be totally attributed to luck. Together with his co-founder Mike Krieger, Systrom used his skills and expertise, worked hard, and maintained the right qualities to bring Instagram to where it is now. Here are some lessons and tips that he learned along the way which can benefit business owners like you!

Be Passionate About The Things That You Love

Kevin Systrom was a photographer first before he became a programmer. And through Instagram, he is able to share his love for Polaroid pictures with millions of smartphone users. Business can sometimes be complicated and chaotic, but if you stay passionate and keep on doing what you love then your chances for success will be higher.

Entertain Big, Crazy Ideas

In one magazine interview, Systrom revealed that it is his big ambition to build a “tool that will change the way people communicate and share in the real world.” He had no experience running a company. But armed with his abilities and passion, he let himself be a little crazy and went on to start Instagram!

For him, fear is the one thing that keeps people from doing the biggest things in the world. If you have a big idea for your business, don’t be afraid to go for it even if others might think that you’re crazy!

Focus On What Works

Systrom and Krieger originally launched a check-in app called, Burbn. However, most users only used it to post photos. Even Systrom admitted that he was only interested in the photos of the other users, not where they checked in. This user behavior paved the way for the birth of Instagram. They cut what doesn’t work and isn’t popular and focused on what works and is popular. The company is continuously improving its service and focusing on what its users love the most. In this case, posting pretty pictures and communicating visually.

Small Teams Can Do Great Things

Instagram reached its social media superstardom status with only 13 employees. And until now, Kevin Systrom still believes in the importance of keeping the team small. “When you’re building a team, I don’t think it should be about filling head count. You shouldn’t say ‘I’m going to go out there and try to be a 50 person company or something.’ What we’ve done so far I think has worked very well, which is we find the best people in the world,” he says.

For Systrom, it’s important to hire smart and passionate people and have complete trust in them. Even if you have a small team, as long as it is composed of great people, you have a great chance of achieving success.

Utilize and Grow Your Network

When Instagram was just newly-launched and its systems kept crashing due to multiple downloads, Systrom sought the help and expertise of Adam D’ Angelo, an acquaintance during his Stanford days. D’Angelo helped not only with the back-ups. He also made investments into Instagram. The app also got a $250,000-investment from businessman Marc Andreessen after Systrom was introduced to him by someone he knew during his Google days.

It’s important to build good connections with everyone you meet. You’ll never know who might also be your future investors!

Build Loyal Customers First, Worry About Profits Later

Regardless of the nature of your business, you need a critical mass of followers and users to make it thrive, survive, and succeed. For Systrom, it’s best to build a loyal customer base first and then think about the revenue later. Instagram’s success can be reflected not just on the billion-dollar Facebook acquisition, but more importantly on its 700 million and still growing number of users.

Instagram has transformed from being a simple photo-sharing tool to a successful app/company used by millions of people to share photos and communicate visually. A lot of credit goes to its co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom, whose principles contributed to the app’s success. He believes in the importance of being passionate, thinking big, focusing on what works, hiring a few but talented people, growing one’s network, and building a loyal following. Now, aspiring and existing business owners like you can learn from him as you take your own journey to success.

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