Kevin Systrom (born December 30, 1983) is an American entrepreneur and programmer, best known as the co‑founder of Instagram with Mike Krieger.
Systrom was born in 1983 in Holliston, Massachusetts. He is the son of Diane (Pels), a marketing executive at Zipcar, and Douglas Systrom, Vice President in Human Resources at TJX Companies. His maternal grandparents were members of The First Congregational Church of Hancock. Systrom attended Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, where he was introduced to computer programming. His interest grew from playing Doom 2 and creating his own levels as a child. He also once created programs that would prank his friends by appearing to hack their AOL Instant Messenger accounts.
Systrom graduated in 2006 from Stanford University with a bachelor's degree in management science and engineering. At Stanford, he was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. He got his first taste of the startup world when he was chosen as one of twelve students to participate in the highly prestigious Mayfield Fellows Program at Stanford university. The fellowship led to his internship at Odeo, the company that eventually gave rise to Twitter.
After graduating Stanford, he joined Google as an associate product marketing manager, working on Gmail, Google Calendar, Docs, Spreadsheets and other products. He spent two years at Google; during the first, he worked on Gmail, Google Reader, and other products, and during the second he worked on the Corporate Development team.
After leaving Google to join Nextstop, a location recommendation startup founded by ex-Googlers that was acquired by Facebook in 2010, Systrom thought of combining location check-ins and popular social games. He made the prototype of what later became Burbn and pitched it to Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz at a party. After the first meeting, he decided to quit his job in order to explore whether or not Burbn could become a company. Within 2 weeks of quitting his job, he received $500,000 seed funding round from both Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. While in San Francisco, Systrom and Mike Krieger built Burbn, a HTML 5 check-in service, into a product that allowed users to do many things: check in to locations, make plans (future check-ins), earn points for hanging out with friends, post pictures, and much more. However, recalling their studies in Mayfield Fellows Program, Krieger and Systrom identified that Burbn contained too many features and the users did not want a complicated product. They decided to focus on one specific feature, photo-sharing. The development of Burbn led to creation of Instagram. A month after launching, Instagram had grown to 1 million users. A year later, Instagram hit more than 10 million users.
In 2010, Systrom co‑founded the photo-sharing and, then later, video-sharing social networking service Instagram with Mike Krieger in San Francisco, California. The name "Instagram" comes from the words "instant" and "telegram".
In April 2012, Instagram was sold to Facebook for $1 billion in cash and stock, along with 13 employees. According to multiple reports, the deal netted Systrom $400 million based on his ownership stake in the business. One of the key contributions to the acquisition is that Mark Zuckerberg stated Facebook is "committed to building and growing Instagram independently," allowing Systrom to continue to lead Instagram.
In an interview with Forbes, he stated that "Instagram is a new form of communication that’s an ideal fit with the always-with-you iPhone in today’s social media world. Instagram’s a social network built around photos, where people can quickly comment on or ‘like’ photos and share them on Twitter or Facebook." Systrom identifies Instagram as a media company, which explains the roll-out of video advertisement by big companies such as Disney, Activision, Lancome, Banana Republic and CW in late 2014.
Under Systrom's leadership, Instagram developed key features like the Explore tab, filters, and video. Over time, Instagram has rolled out features allowing users to upload and filter photographs and short videos, follow other users' feeds, geotag images, name location, and comment on other users' photographs and short videos. Instagram allowed the development of web profiles in 2012, connecting accounts to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr in 2013, an Explore tab in mid-2012, and Video in June 2013. Instagram offers 19 photographic filters; Normal, 1977, Amaro, Branna, Earlybird, Hefe, Hudson, Inkwell, Kelvin, Lo-fi, Mayfair, Nashville, Rise, Sierra, Sutro, Toaster, Valencia, Willow, X-Pro II.
In 2013, Systrom was listed in the Forbes 30 under 30 list under the Social/Mobile category.
As of June 2016, Instagram has over 500 million active users.