Kevin Systrom: From Stanford to Startup [Entire Talk] | Summary and Q&A

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August 17, 2011
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Stanford eCorner
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Kevin Systrom: From Stanford to Startup [Entire Talk]

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Summary

In this video, Kevin and Mike, the co-founders of Instagram, share their experience and debunk some myths they believed in when they started their company. They emphasize the importance of learning from experience, making quick decisions in the face of uncertainty, and building a network of like-minded individuals. They also discuss the value of solving simple problems and the need to fail early and often. Kevin and Mike share their insights on financing startups, optimizing for people rather than valuation, and the importance of having a strong team. They talk about the long and challenging journey of starting a company and the importance of finding the right co-founder. The video ends with the advice to start now and to cherish the relationships built along the way.

Questions & Answers

Q: What was the background and experience of Kevin and Mike before starting their company?

Kevin worked at Google for a couple of years while Mike worked at Meebo before they decided to start their own company.

Q: Why did they decide to start their own company?

After working in larger companies for a while, they both felt the desire to do something on their own and explore entrepreneurship.

Q: How did Instagram come about?

Instagram came from a previous project called Burbn, which was a check-in app that allowed users to share pictures or videos. They realized that people loved sharing images the most, which led to the creation of Instagram.

Q: How many mobile photos are uploaded per day on Instagram?

They estimate that there are around six photos uploaded per second, resulting in a large number of daily uploads.

Q: What was the first myth Kevin and Mike discussed?

The first myth was that you can learn to be an entrepreneur from books, blogs, or talks. They learned that experience and going through their own startup journey were the most valuable sources of learning.

Q: What were some of the decisions they had to make early on in their startup journey?

They had to decide whether to follow a model similar to Twitter or Facebook, and there was no existing guidance or advice that could help them make those decisions. They had to rely on their own instincts and trust their gut.

Q: How did they develop their instincts and improve decision-making skills?

They emphasized the importance of going through different experiences and making quick decisions in the face of uncertainty. They also mentioned the value of doing side projects and learning from them.

Q: What was the second myth they discussed?

The second myth was the belief that startups can only come from Computer Science students. They debunked this myth by highlighting their own backgrounds and the fact that technical skills can be self-taught.

Q: What advice did they give to students trying to pick courses?

They mentioned the importance of courses that focus on addressing uncertainty and asking questions rather than providing a predefined set of problems to solve.

Q: How did they approach scaling their product when faced with high demand?

They had to quickly learn and adapt to scale their product, even though they had no previous experience with Amazon's cloud platform. They emphasized the importance of being motivated by the demand and finding solutions to challenges.

Q: What was the third myth they discussed?

The third myth was the belief that finding the solution to a problem is the hardest part. They emphasized that solutions can come easily for most problems, but the challenge lies in identifying and understanding the problem to be solved.

Q: How did they approach identifying the problems they wanted to solve with Instagram?

They listed out the top problems people had with mobile photos and focused on solving those specific problems. They mentioned the importance of verifying these problems through user feedback and testing hypotheses.

Q: How did they validate their ideas and hypotheses?

They emphasized the need to put the product in front of users quickly and gather feedback. They mentioned the value of failing early and often to refine ideas and iterate on solutions.

Q: What was the fourth myth they discussed?

The fourth myth was the belief in building a robust product in secrecy and then launching it to the world. They emphasized the importance of getting feedback from users early on and iterating based on that feedback.

Q: What advice did they give regarding raising money and venture capital?

They recommended optimizing for people rather than valuation when raising money. They highlighted the value of finding investors who believe in the startup's vision and who can provide more than just capital.

Q: How much money did they spend to launch the first version of Instagram?

They spent about $60,000 to launch the initial version of Instagram and realized that startups can bootstrap themselves with low budgets, especially with the availability of resources like Amazon Web Services.

Q: What was the fifth myth they discussed?

The fifth myth was the belief that starting a company is solely about building a product. They emphasized that there are many other aspects to starting a company, such as legal, financial, and team-related tasks.

Q: How did they approach team-building and recruiting for their startup?

They highlighted the importance of building a strong team and finding people who align with the startup's vision. They mentioned the different roles they played in the company but emphasized the importance of overlapping and supporting each other.

Q: How did they handle tensions and maintain a healthy working relationship?

They mentioned that their co-founder relationship has been positive, and they attribute it to understanding each other and continuously working on their relationship. They emphasized the importance of being in it for the long haul and having shared goals and values.

Q: What advice did they give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

They encouraged starting as soon as possible and not waiting for the perfect idea or moment. They mentioned the value of learning through hands-on experience and constantly iterating on ideas. They also recommended cherishing the relationships built along the entrepreneurial journey.

Takeaways

Kevin and Mike shared their experience and debunked several myths about entrepreneurship and starting a company. They emphasize the importance of learning through experience, making quick decisions in the face of uncertainty, and building a network of like-minded individuals. They highlighted the value of solving simple problems, failing early and often, and optimizing for people rather than valuation when raising money. They emphasized the importance of team-building and the need to focus on both building a product and handling the other aspects of starting a company. Lastly, they encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to start now and cherish the relationships built along the way.

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