Instagram Founder Is A Marketer Who Taught Himself To Code

In case you haven’t heard the big news, 2-year-old photo-sharing app Instagram was acquired by Facebook for $1 BILLION yesterday. What you probably don’t know is that the Founder and CEO of Instagram Kevin Systrom is a marketer who learned to code by night according as The Next Web reports.


Here is part of the Instagram story as told by Systrom on Quora:

“The story starts when I worked at Nextstop. While I was there working in marketing, I started doing more and more engineering at night on simple ideas that helped me learn how to program (I don’t have any formal CS degree or training). One of these ideas was combining elements of foursquare (check-ins) with elements of Mafia Wars (hence the name Burbn). I figured I could build a prototype of the idea in HTML5 and get it to some friends. Those friends ended up using the prototype without any branding elements or design at all. I spent weekends working on improving the prototype for my friends. At a party for the Hunch folks I ran into a bunch of people who would basically make starting Burbn a reality. At that party were two people from Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. I showed the prototype, and we decided we’d meet up for coffee to talk about it. After the first meeting, I decided to take the dive and leave my job to go solo and see if Burbn could be a company. Within two weeks of leaving, I raised $500k from both Baseline and Andreessen Horowitz, and started work on finding a team.”

This story is actually similar to that of Dennis Crowley, the founder of Foursquare, who writes on Quora:

“Pre-dodgeball I went thru 3-4 years thinking I was going to meet some magical engineer who would build all the stuff I was thinking about.  But I never met that person, so I taught myself ASP and MS Access (yikes! eventually PHP an MySQL) out of a book and got to work just hacking stuff together.  I’m still a really shitty programmer (ask Harry Heymann) but I know enough to hack a prototype together (which is what you need to get other people / investors on board).”

While people like Mark Zuckerberg and other popular founders have years of coding experiences, some were even born coding!, that is not a requirement for building a great company. If you have an idea and can code it enough to get traction and attract more technical people, you too can build the next Instagram.

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