The Tim Ferriss Show: Kevin Systrom Interview (#369)

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ABOUT KEVIN SYSTROM

Kevin Systrom (@kevin) is the Co-Founder and Former CEO of Instagram, the World’s largest photo-sharing platform which was acquired by Facebook in 2012. Under Systrom as the CEO, Instagram grew fast and crossed over a billion monthly users. During his tenure, Instagram launched many new features including video, live, direct messaging, Stories, and IGTV.

Kevin resigned as the CEO of Instagram in September 2018.

Kevin Systrom was the guest on The Tim Ferriss Show Episode 369 where he discussed Entrepreneurship, Books, and Instagram.

Here are our takeaways from the conversation.

KEVIN SYSTROM QUOTES FROM THE EPISODE

  • “It turns out actually the right thing to do is sometimes the simplest and it’s the most effective”
  • “What I found in a startup is when you’re small, and you’re 2 people, it’s me and Mike (Co-Founder), we are coding late into the night. You don’t have time to make things complex. You have time to make things work.”
  • “The key to entrepreneurship is failing really quickly”
  • “You have to believe in what you’re doing and love what you’re doing. That itself has to bring you the most amount of excitement. Otherwise, getting knocked down is going to knock you off the horse and you’re off forever.”
  • “Follow your passion”
  • “You should love what you’re shooting for”

KEVIN SYSTROM STARTING INSTAGRAM

  • Kevin Systrom wanted to be his own boss and hence started his entrepreneurial pursuit with ‘Burbn’, a check-in app
  • He received funding of US $500,000 from Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz to pursue his idea
  • He brought in Mike Krieger who was a power user of Burbn as a Co-Founder to work with him
  • Kevin and Mike soon realized that their startup was not going anywhere and decided to pivot
  • They made a list of all the features provided by Burbn and decided on the photo-sharing feature for their pivot, Instagram
  • The first version of Instagram did not have filters
  • While on a vacation with his wife, Nicole, Kevin realized that filters were important for photographs since his wife hesitated to use Instagram because she thought that her photos were not looking great
  • Kevin created the first filter for Instagram which was the X Pro II

THE MAYFIELD FELLOWS PROGRAM

  • While pursuing his BS degree in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University, Kevin got a chance to be a part of the Mayfield Fellows Program
  • The Mayfield Fellows Program is a 9-month program with 3 months of case studies on Entrepreneurship, 3 months of Internship at a Startup, and 3 months of debriefing on the experience
  • Kevin got a chance to work with Odeo, the Podcast publishing platform which was the precursor to Twitter, founded by Evan Williams and Noah Glass

KEVIN SYSTROM ON EXPERIENCE AT ODEO

  • Kevin Systrom brought his own computer to work as an intern
  • Jack Dorsey, the Co-Founder and CEO of Twitter who was then an Engineer at Odeo started along with Kevin and gave a few JavaScript assignments to him
  • At one point, Evan Williams, Co-Founder of Odeo was convinced that the team was not working hard enough and sent Kevin Systrom along with 6 or 7 Odeo employees to the ‘Getting Things Done’ seminar by David Allen
  • Kevin recounts Evan Williams as being super determined and super calm under pressure

KEVIN SYSTROM ON SELLING INSTAGRAM TO FACEBOOK

  • Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012
  • Instagram had 13 employees during the time and Kevin continued as the CEO of Instagram until September 2018
  • Kevin talked about how founders quit their startup within a year of acquisition and attribute his passion for continuing to work with Instagram for 6 years after the acquisition

KEVIN SYSTROM’S LESSONS FROM THE ‘HOW TO READ A BOOK’ BY MORTIMER J. ADLER

  1. Get an idea of the book by reading the Table of Contents and then skimming through the book to understand the various arguments made
  2. Usually, the author summarises the main arguments and make the points they actually wanted to make in the last paragraph of each chapter. Understanding and reading this and then reading the entire chapter knowing the arc of the story is helpful. This exercise is recommended for non-fiction books and not for fiction books.

BOOKS MOST GIFTED BY KEVIN SYSTROM

Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

BOOK THAT HELPED KEVIN SYSTROM IN THE ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

WHAT KEVIN SYSTROM LEARNED FROM READING THE ‘LEAN STARTUP’ BOOK

Do the Simple Thing First

ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS THAT VERY FEW TAKE

Solve a Problem

COMMON MISTAKES ENTREPRENEURS MAKE

Going out alone

MESSAGE TO THE WORLD THROUGH A BILLBOARD

Follow your passion

OTHER BOOKS MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE

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