The Visioning Room

Startup Snapshot: Instagram

In an era where some define themselves by their social interactions – particularly those made online – the team behind Instagram is contributing to how we want to connect with other people. By taking the charm of Polaroid pictures (definitely not a unique software idea on its own given the excess amount of these in various app stores) and joining that with the modern day technology that allows us to instantly share information and even media, Instagram is a realization of the two concepts put together.

At the Core

Both CEO Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger have educational and work experiences that cater to Instagram’s development and needs. CEO Systrom has worked with big names such as Odea (that became Twitter) and Google, and Krieger has his own string of achievements including a software development role at Foxmarks (that became Xmarks).

Instagram is About Photography, but it’s Also About Sharing

With Instagram, users can take pictures and send them through image filters to create various effects. They can then upload these images to a social networking site of choice: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Posterous and – with the recent addition of images – FourSquare. Instagram’s dashboard is fitted with a stream of the most popular images uploaded into the database, which can be commented on and shared throughout. Instagram is a mashup of most things photo related. Location, photo filter effects,sharing/liking: the staples of apps everywhere. With its start on the iPhone platform, one has to wonder what they’ll do to innovate at a higher level than Flickr. Have you tried the latest Flickr apps? The experience for Windows 7/Windows Phone 7 is amazing.

Bringing in the Community in a Profitable Way

Although Instagram is a great way to not only tinker with your images, but also upload them instantaneously to share with your online networks, I’m wondering what the team plans on doing to translate their rising community into profit. Although this is a great way to share with your newfound Instagram community as well as your communities already formed on many other popular social sites, the Instagram community needs to be converted from potential to profit. Currently, the folks at Instagram have indicated that they are considering the idea of charging for add-ons like special photograph filters that are not available on the free application. This is a great start, but Instagram has a lot of considerations to mull over.

I’m still not certain that I’d pay for any of it. I understand the motivation for making advertising the play, but that ship and its margins sailed long ago. With a 7-to-1 Free vs. Paid app download ratio, it’s clear (at least for now) that Free is the way to go in an ever-increasing app pool. I’ve yet to click on any mobile smartphone advertisement, let alone care to read one on a Free app where I can barely see the display. The only real way mobile advertising is going to work, in my opinion, is as disruption advertising. I have even less time and patience for that sort of thing on my mobile device when I am on the go. Unfortunately, Instagram currently feels like a novelty app I’d just as easily pass on before involving myself in its community. I don’t need another new silo of “friends.”

The Wait and See

Instagram, only a few months old and yet already at a million users, still has a lot of experimenting to undergo. The potential and the market is certainly there, but hopefully they can maintain the already booming user’s interests and continue to iterate.

About Start-up Snapshots
Once a week, we’re going to profile a new entrepreneur and their start-up. We want to know what inspired the concept, what’s the business model and offer some of our unsolicited advice. If you have ideas for a Start-up Snapshot, send us a tip!

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