Meet the 28 year old who just made $400 Million today, reads the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle this afternoon. The story is an interview by Nicholas Carlson (@nichcarlson), Senior Editor of Business Insider, created in large part from Quora answers of Kevin Systrom, the cofounder and CEO of Instagram, which Facebook just acquired for $1 Billion. Systrom would like to talk, it’s just that Facebook is in its SEC mandated ‘silent period’ before its upcoming IPO.
As way of context, Instagram is a photo-sharing app that launched just a couple years ago, and already has 30 million users. My son, Colin, LexBlog’s editorial manager, told me a year plus ago I needed to start using Instagram. He liked the social/engagement aspect of the app and the way people could start to experience what others were experiencing at sporting events. Remind me that I need to continue to listen to this kid. ;) You need the whole Carlson story. Believe me. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. A kid working in marketing in one company so filled with curiosity that he begins to refine his limited coding knowledge at night. A kid who picked up the entrepreneurial bug while being ‘The Intern’ at Odeo (podcast startup that failed) founded by Ev, who became the co-founder of Twitter. It’s so hard to know what you’re capable of until you give it a try. You need to roll the bones (take chances) as my Dad used to say when he was growing his own business. We’re talking a mobile app with Instagram, not a large software, manufacturing, or sales organization. 13 people worked at Instagram today, and Systrom was one of them. It didn’t even have a ‘.com’ domain – http://instagr.am. The other 12 are dividing $100 million. The venture capitalists are dividing the last (first) $400 Million. One of the VC’s is Marc Andreessen, who left the University of Illinois in 1994 to head West to do ‘something’ with this thing he invented called a browser (Netscape). Don’t get hung up on the billion dollar price tag. Who knows if Instagram is worth it. Was YouTube worth more than a billion? Was Broadcast.com worth a billion when Mark Cuban sold it to Yahoo over 10 years ago? Who knows? What we do know is that people willing to take a chance, who are willing to hire people smarter than they are, and to bring on debt or equity partners can create wealth and jobs in this country. Don’t look at the 13 jobs here – look at Facebook, Google, and Amazon hiring as many smart and ambitious people as they can. As fast as they can. And those companies were built in no small part by acquiring companies like Systrom’s. This type of entrepreneurialism need not be limited to ‘tech start-ups’ located in Silicon Valley or San Francisco. I expect young companies developing solutions, networks, and products for the legal industry to give traditional legal publishers (LexisNexis, Thomson-Reuters, Wolters-Kluwer) a run for their money. If not replace them, these companies certainly serve as the research and development arms for large companies who simply can not move with innovation as younger and smaller companies can. These small legal services companies, at a time when large companies are struggling, are hiring more people. Technologists and lawyers alike. Good stuff can happen to good people. You just need to roll the bones.