Products That Solve Problems Market Themselves: The Instagram Story

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Instagram launched in late 2010 with a new, fast and easy way to share photos between users. The service has expanded at a huge rate across the globe, and is current adding almost 130,000 new users every week. We invited the team at Instagram to have a chat about the product, and to share the lessons they’ve learned from launching the service.

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Why did you choose to launch Instagram on iOS, as opposed to other platforms?

One thing we learned while doing our first product (Burbn) was that it was really hard trying to be nimble as well as cross platform. Our learning was that the large majority of people we knew had iPhones, we had iPhones & we knew how to code in objective-C, so it was a natural starting point. I’m not sure it matters where you start, as long as you’re focused and you’ve got a passion for the platform.

Getting to other platforms is a no-brainer going forward, it’s merely a question of when.

What strategies did you use to expand the initial user base of Instagram?

Products that solve problems people actually have tend to market themselves. We didn’t do any particular marketing per-se, it just kind of blew up underneath us. One thing we made sure to do was to make
sure the product had the makings of something viral; that you could share and distribute your content across many different platforms. I think this aspect alone had a large part to do with our initial growth.

If you could do it all again, what would you do differently in regards to launching and marketing the product?

We would have started the product on Amazon EC2 — initially it was on a small dumpy box we were leasing, and it couldn’t handle any of the traffic. Embracing the cloud was the best decision we made in our first week.

What plans do you have for the future of Instagram?

We’re looking to build a world-class engineering team to solve the big-data problems we’re approaching. We get about 6 photos per second posted to the platform, and many thousands of new users every day. Our goal is to create a platform where everyone can share what’s happening around the world in a visual manner, and to get to that vision requires a lot of scaling and hard work.

What advice would you offer to other aspiring startup founders?

Validate your idea quickly by putting it with real users. Your goal is to learn what people like and don’t like about the product and make adjustments quickly. Validate that you have a market, validate that your market loves your product, and make sure that your product solves real problems for that group.

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