Systrom Morning Future
Inspiring Best Practice 29 June Jun 2018 0830 29 June 2018

Kevin Systrom, the 34-year-old who invented the Instagram filters

The idea for the application that made his fortune came to him during a trip to Mexico. The names of the filters? They all refer to places and liqueurs

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In 2010 the invention of Instagram made him one of the youngest millionaires in the world. Eight years later, in spite of the acquisition of the app by Facebook in 2012, Kevin Systrom is still running the company and has recently been preparing an important new feature, the Time spent function which will make it possible to monitor the time spent scrolling and commenting photos so as to discourage dependence on social networks.

The love Systrom has for technology and the entrepreneurial approach come from his mother, who among things has worked for Zipcar. Originally from San Diego but raised in the well-off state of Massachusetts, Systrom became keen on programming from a very young age – as an adolescent he created a program for hacking the accounts of Aol message clients – and after getting a degree from Stanford he worked his way up in the most important and innovative companies in the sector.

He worked for Odeo (the company that was to develop Twitter), Google, in particular for Gmail and Calendar, and Nextstop. He also founded Burbn, a localisation service based on Html5.

Of course, one of his greatest passions is also photography. The idea for the application that made his fortune came to him during a trip to Mexico Sometimes the winning discoveries come from an attempt to resolve very ordinary problems, and that’s what happened to Systrom. His girlfriend was not satisfied with the quality of the photos she took with her iPhone 4 and she was reluctant to publish them on the social networks. The solution? The filters. Priceless allies of the selfies even in poor light, they can transform a simply ugly photo into an evocative snapshot. And to make holiday snapshots enviable and effective even if the resolution is not so good.

Sometimes the winning discoveries come from an attempt to resolve very banal problems.

It was a great success: more than a million users in only three months, despite the fact that at the beginning it was available only to Apple users. From there to the takeover by Zuckerberg for a good billion dollars was only a short step.

An anecdote which might please the Italian fans of Instagram concerns the square format of the photo. It is something inherited from the time when Systrom studied photography in Florence, during the years of Stanford, and he went around taking photos with his Holga camera. If at this point what came to mind was the “amaro” filter, then you are right, the name is in fact a tribute to Italian liqueurs (in reality the names of the filters refer mostly to places and drinks). Another curious fact that concerns us closely is the meeting between the CEO of Instagram and Pope Francesco in February 2016. It seems that the two discussed the power of images and how they can be useful for uniting people, beyond boundaries, cultures and generations.

Today Systrom's company is still working at full pace, or rather, it is the preferred weapon of Facebook against the competition, firstly of Snapchat and then in general all the apps created for the pleasure of the variegated world of millennials and adolescents.

With all this success Systrom can even dare to warn us when we spend too much time on his app. «Knowing this has an impact on our lives — he explained — . And it is the responsibility of all companies to be honest about this subject. A responsibility that I take seriously». Systrom says he checks Instagram twice a day.

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