Kevin Systrom was born in Holliston, Massachusetts on December 30th, 1983. As a child he learned about computer programming and showed interest in technology. He pursued a degree in management science and engineering from Stanford University. He was selected to the highly renowned Mayfield Fellows Program where students are trained in high-tech entrepreneurship.
After graduation he worked with the tech giant Google for several years, and then shifted to a startup company called Nextstop. It was while working with this new venture that he came up with the idea and passion of developing the new big thing in the tech world.

MVP #1 BURBN (2009)

Launched in 2010 Burbn had many features such as posting pictures, sharing locations, create future check-ins, and evburbn.jpgen accumulate points based on their activities on Burbn. However, the founders soon realized that the application with its enormous features was not user friendly.
The problem that Burbn looked to solve was that there was no community or platform for location based visual sharing. What this meant at the time was that if people wanted to share an experience they had no way to share photos and location all in the same platform.

The segment for Burbn was initially looking at tech friendly, and engaged young people. Leaning more towards the more tech inclined, and people with an understanding of location based software. Arguably the audience for Burbn shifted as time went on from a more tech educated audience, to those with a lower understanding of technology but still with a desire to share their experiences.

The value proposition that Burbn looked to provide was a community of engaged photo and visual minded people that create a gathering space online for their experiences. The platform served the use of being a hub for all these people and a space for the experiences of them and their photos.

The founders looked through potential customers, and both Kevin and his team talked to a range. The hypothesized segment was very responsive to the idea, thought when they talked to other potential customers they realized they were excluding large cohorts by overcomplicating it. Overall the problem and service are both things that resonated with the customers, yet the segment needed to be pivoted. The resulting pivot was that the service became more simplified and geared towards a more accessible segment.


Instagram served to address the lack of visual based storytelling platforms on mobile devices. “Most mobile photos right now are like “men”” This is a famous quote
by Kevin Systrom is the problem summed up. The world didn’t have a platform for making mobile photos look better and share them with the people around.

The segment of customers Instagram looked to target is mobile phone owners, who might not be the most tech friendly. They looked at people who wanted to share experience and photos, yet didn’t have the means to take professional photos or have access to a camera.

The value that this aimed to provide is a community to share polished mobile photos with those around you, in a quick and accessible way. They were providing a service and platform to mobile phone owners to polish their photos and share, interact, and engage with those around them.

After the pivot to a more user friendly model, the founders went and talked again to their segment. They found users engaged, and excited by the idea. The problem was one that resonated much more with a much broader scope of people. As mobile phones were mainstreaming it was something that large masses of people related to as a problem, which made them very responsive to the idea of it.


Kevin Systrom's journey to founding Instagram has not been an easy or linear one. He learned the hard way that a startup is not a path but a maze. Gearing from a very specific and overly complicated idea and platform like Burbn, and simplifying it to a larger and more accessible cohort is not an easy choice for a founder. This isn't easy because it takes a lot to admit your vision wasn't working and that to make it work you need to change it. However by taking the feedback and pivoting it, he created what is the worlds largest sharing platform for images and video. Now looking back Instagram was a huge hole in the mobile market that many didn't believe had demand, yet through his previous MVP's Systrom knew there was demand and took it. The takeaway from this is largely that just because you vision doesn't work in the way you thought, it doesn't mean there isn't opportunity. Being flexible to feedback is a startups best weapon to success.