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Young Entrepreneurs are Picture Perfect

Matt Harvey, Stanford University June 21, 2011

When launching a new venture, you want to get off to a good start. And racking up over five million users in the first eight months certainly counts.

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launched Instagram, the wildly popular photo-sharing service for iPhone, in late 2010.  Since that time, the young company has attracted users who enjoy their simple-to-use application that allows classic camera filters to be applied to mobile photos before they are shared through social media.

While Instagram’s elegant product took hard work and many long hours to create, discovering solutions is not the hard part when designing a product, according to the co-founders. “The hard part is actually finding the problem to solve,” says Systrom. “Solutions come rather easily for most problems, not all, but most.”

“The hard part is actually finding the problem to solve.”

Kevin Systrom, Instagram Co-Founder

Rather than just designing a slick web application that was all sizzle and no substance, Systrom and Kreiger always saw Instagram as a solution to the top problems with sharing photos taken on mobile devices: 1) Mobile photos don’t always look great, 2) Uploads of mobile photos take too long, and 3) It’s hard to share these photos with multiple services at the same time.

While Systrom and Krieger personally experienced these issues with other photo services, the co-founders needed to verify that other users struggled in the same way. They got their gut-check by getting their product in front of early users and learning from these interactions. This process of testing your hypotheses is also a fundamental principle of the customer development/lean startup methodology.

Systrom and Krieger are Stanford graduates who also share a desire to tackle problems. While many people in tech claim only to be interested in taking on huge problems, smaller problems present unique challenges, according to the co-founders, as simple solutions are often harder to scale.

“You should not be afraid to have simple solutions to simple problems,” says Systrom. “If you delight people with even a simple solution, it turns out it will go really far.”

While at Stanford, both men also participated in the Mayfield Fellows Program (MFP), an intense nine-month work/study program that provides students with a life-changing entrepreneurship experience. During their Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders seminar in May, Systrom and Krieger encouraged Stanford students to not only apply for MFP, but to also take full advantage of many of the available entrepreneurship courses offered at Stanford.

Enjoy more videos of the Instagram Co-Founders on ECorner.