📸 Instagram in 1 minute.

How instagram got its first 25k customers in one day?

🤔 The 1 minute Summary

Company: Instagram

First 1000 Strategy:💬 Big Launch

Creating a hyped launch

Many try and fail to do this, simply because they don’t have the network. Instagram launch day was big. They got @Jack(investor) to tweet about it to his 1m followers along with a dozen of other design influencers(example 1, example 2). IG didn’t just rely on influencers, but also got themselves covered in TechCrunch, Wired plus many other publications. To get featured Kevin gave reporters early access to the app, when only a handful of web designers had their hands on it during testing! Exclusivity == Value. A consequence of the PR + Influencer launch was that they also got featured on the app store. This is not crazy considering the fact that Apple 🖤 design-first companies…they went from <12 users to 25,000 in 24 hours! Media is extremely powerful….


🤤 Full Story

30-second History Lesson

Kevin, ex-intern @ Twitter and PMM @ Google (after the company he worked for got acquired by Google in his first year), started Burbn (the precursor) to Instagram to help people discover whiskey places. He raised $500k for the idea after running into investors from Baseline(Steve Anderson) at a party and showing them the app. @Jack also participated in the round, lending his support to his previous intern.

The Pivot

There was contingency on the money they raised. Steve Anderson would not do the deal until Kevin found a cofounder. This was when Mike came to the picture; he was an old friend of Kevin that also liked to tinker with projects on the weekends, one meeting in....and he was on board (talk about life-changing decisions)

But soon after, it was obvious to Kevin and Mike that Burbn was just 👏not👏that👏interesting👏to👏people. They only managed to take it to a hundred users a few months after raising those $500k (they were at 80 users before raising any money). To focus their efforts, they did something so simple yet so powerful...they asked the handful of users they had 

Why do you still use Burbn? 

I just want to take a minute to uncover why this is such a powerful question. For starters, it helps you re-discover your value proposition, what is it that people appreciate about your product. Secondly, it helps your team to identify the best ROI of their time. If you were to ask them something like how could you make the product better or what features they want....you would get pulled into 200 different directions; that is not something you can afford in the early days. 

Building Instagram

1 - Focus

The original premise of Burbn was on Location sharing, which was hot hot hot at the time. But from the handful of users they had, they found that they were primarily using Burbn to share photos of mundane things. So they had some initial direction

2- Study Competition

Kevin and Mike studied every competitor on the market to find how they can build a competitive product (Path was all the rave back then 🤣). And they decided to focus relentlessly on minimizing the number of clicks to post a photo (spoiler alert: that wasn't enough)

3- Experimentation

Before Instagram, the duo developed a prototype named Scotch. It had a similar premise to Instagram...but without the filter (and the UI was a bit wack).

4- Do Something Special

Photo sharing in itself wasn't something special; what was special and unique at the time was the amount of processing power one could do on the iPhone 4. Taking a beautiful panorama and turning it into a cool 1980 polaroid is not just something you could do on any of the existing "old-school" photo-sharing app. 

The funny thing about filters, though, it did not come out of user research or any unique insights the founders had. Instead, Kevin (after being burned out by the failure of Burbn) was taking some time off with his girlfriend, and after showcasing the new IG prototype, she said she wouldn't post any pictures though because her photos weren't as good as a Kevin's friend Greg(he used a separate filter app to make his photos look nice). So Kevin, upon returning to work, added filters to the Instagram prototype.


Teardown: Getting 25k Customers on launch day

💡 Prelaunch

Mike and Kevin only had 100 Testflight Beta Invites to give out before launch, and so they treated them very specially. So they focused their initial target on two main categories

1- Journalists....so they write about them when the app launches

2- Dribble.com, Top designers from Dribble meant that the quality of the content that seeded the app would be out of this world. This fueled the "wow" factor of Instagram. It is worth mentioning that they didn't go with photographers because they were just a much more demanding segment. 

🚀 Launch

Kevin and Mike got @Jack(ex-boss + investor) to tweet about it to his 1m followers and a dozen other design influencers(example 1example 2). IG didn't just rely on influencers but also got themselves covered in TechCrunchWired, plus many other publications(thanks to some of those beta invites they set aside to reporters.  

Exclusivity == Value.

A consequence of the PR + Influencer launch was that they also got featured on the app store. This is not crazy because Apple 🖤 design-first companies… went from <100 users to 25,000 in 24 hours! Media is extremely powerful.

And that's how Instagram got their first 25,000 customers. I also just wanted to say thank you ♥️ to Joe Amdal, Juraj Pal, Ben Belmont, Areeb Mianoor, Ahmed Fawzy and Marrie Dolle for sharing last week's issue! It means the world to me

Share First 1000

See you next Sunday😉,

Ali Abouelatta

I would love to chat and learn how I can improve the newsletter in the future. Book a Zoom meeting with me here.