Business Lessons From Instagram
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
In 2009 Kevin Systrom, a 27 year old Stanford Graduate coded an app called “burbn” as a side hobby. His only intention was to build a community where people having an interest in whiskeys can share their check-in locations & photos. Its only competitor at that time was foursquare which provided a personalized recommendation of places to go near a user's current location.
In May 2010, Mike Krieger partnered with Kevin to join Instagram. After careful analysis of “burbn” it was found that photo sharing was the most popular feature in the app. So they decided to focus only on one thing which was photo-sharing capabilities and scrapped almost everything else.
After months of experimentation and prototyping—in October 2010—Systrom and Krieger renamed the app to Instagram – instant camera + telegram. The brand name itself allowed customers to understand the purpose of the app.
Over the period, Instagram had multiple releases of the app adding simple features and removing unpopular ones. Like in 2013, Instagram made it easier to share posts by adding links to embed photos and videos. In 2019, Instagram got rid of the ‘Like’ feature in the app. They also kept the app very simple. Often too many features bog down and kill products.
Key lessons for entrepreneurs from the Instagram story:
Lesson 1: The company had a false start but it evolved into something else. Sometimes you need to fail to find the right solution. In 2009, little did Kevin knew that his side hobby would turn into a multi-billion dollar business.
If you are building something and you are not sure which direction to go, you have to focus on core competency & strengths and try not to get attached to ideas that you love.
Lesson 2: Keep the brand name in sync with your core capability and purpose for better customer understanding of the product.
Lesson 3: You should not be afraid to have simple solutions to simple problems. Make something that customers want and keep the customer-facing design and content simple.
Lesson 4: Optimize for customers, don’t optimize for valuation. Analyze your business and find out what is working and what isn’t based on customer feedback. Try to always cut what doesn’t work and isn’t popular. Enhance customer experience by focusing on and improving on what customer wants rather than providing more features.
What makes products popular and in-demand is when they’re useful and they’re usable.