Kevin Systrom is an American entrepreneur best known as the co-founder of Instagram, the photo-sharing, social network application that gave rise to the modern day fashion entrepreneur à la Kylie Jenner and the fashion influencer, with a corresponding influencer market valued at $8 billion in 2019.
From first-mover mega-brands like Burberry and pioneering image-makers like Nick Knight , to models-of-the-moment Cara Delevingne and fast-scaling retailers like Nasty Gal, Instagram has taken off significantly in the fashion industry. “I think that Instagram as a visual platform just fits very naturally with how the fashion community communicates its work,” Systrom explained to BoF. In doing so, the platform has also brought forth an age of brand transparency through open debate, as a grounds for scandal with racist campaigns, model abuse and sexual harassment adding fuel to the #Metoo movement. Instagram was also instrumental in effecting social change within the fashion industry, such as the 2017 Kering and LVMH Model Charter put in place to protect model's rights.
The app has proved to be a powerful marketing tool for brands, providing relatable content, show coverage and extensive brand exposure. Instagram was awarded the CFDA Eugenia Sheppard Award in 2015. Its mobile platform also makes it highly convenient for on-the-go fashion professionals, enabling them to attend and share events with their virtual followers in tow. In March 2019, the platform introduced an online shopping feature, projected to generate $10 billion by 2021, according to Deutsche Bank. The checkout tool was first tested by a select 20 brands, including Adidas, Uniqlo, Dior and Kylie Cosmetics.
The rise of Instagram has even changed the way in which fashion shows are documented, influencing the collections and show sets themselves. “The way that we shoot it, the way that we showcase it and the way that we make the clothes and design them changed.” Alexander Wang told The New York Times, discussing Instagram’s impact on the industry.
Systrom was introduced to computer programming whilst attending school in Concord, Massachusetts, having played computer games as a child. He graduated in 2006 from Stanford University, where he met Mike Krieger in 2004, who would later becoming his Instagram founding partner. During his degree, Systrom picked up an interest in photography, and was chosen to participate in the highly prestigious Mayfield Fellows Programme. This milestone led to an internship at Odea, the company that gave rise to Twitter.
After stints at Google and Nextstop (a location recommendation start-up) Systrom created Burbn with the intention to combine location check-ins and social games. After pitching the idea at a party he received $500,000 seed funding within 2 weeks. The creation of Burbn led to Instagram. A month after launching, Instagram had grown to 1 million users, and within 18 months it had gone from nascent start-up to a $1 billion acquisition by Facebook.
In 2014, Systrom was included in Forbes' 30 under 30 list and in 2016, the publication ranked him among its list of billionaires, estimating his net worth at $1.1 billion.
In late 2018, Systrom and Krieger both left the Facebook owned Instagram, which was acquired for $1 billion in 2012.