Instagram And The Pet Rock: Simple Ideas That Grossed Millions And The People Who Believed In Them

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You know Instagram. It’s that web service that allows you to post pictures and hashtags that has taken the internet by storm. It is simple and nostalgic, invoking memories of bulletin boards at bars covered by Polaroids. It allows you to share an instant in time quickly with a large group of people.


What you may not know is that this simple idea was just bought by Facebook for 1 billion dollars! I feel a little Dr. Evil in me when I say that out loud. One Billion Dollars! It just goes to show that simple ideas can have huge pay-offs. Just ask the creator of the Pet Rock, right?


Let’s meet the people who were smart enough to be part of Instagram before it was sold to Facebook, shall we?

The Founders:

The CEO and co-founder of Instagram is Kevin Systrom. He was a Corporate Development Associate at Google and a Product manager at NextStop before he started Instagram in June of 2010. At the time of sale he owned a whopping 40 % of Instagram.

The fellow co-founder and proud owner of 10% of Instagram is Mike Krieger. He was a User Experience Designer and Engineer at Meebo before he joined with Kevin.


The Workers:

Community Specialists:


Dan Toffey joined Instagram in March of 2012. His background was as a Web Communications Manager at Commodity Futures Trading Commission in Washington D.C.


Bailey Richardson also joined in March of 2012. Before becoming a Specialist at Instagram she was a Community and Marketing manager at UGallery.


Josh Riedel joined in October of 2010. In addition to being a Community Specialist he also is a Partnership Specialist at Instagram. He was previously a Community Manager at NextStop where he likely rubbed shoulders with Kevin Systrom. (Networking is so important).


Jessica Zollman is not a Specialist, but rather a Community Evangelist at Instagram. Basically she is in charge of upselling Instagram on a wide variety of social networking platforms such as Twitter, Tumblr and, of course, Facebook. She also communicates between users and the employees of Instagram. Her background was as a User Support Specialist at FormSpring and Customer Relations Specialist at Linden Lab.



Philip McAllister joined Instagram in January of 2012. His background is that of an Engineer for Gowalla (which coincidentally enough was also acquired by Facebook).


Gregor Hochmuth joined Instagram in December of 2011. His comes from being the CEO and Co-founder at Modi, and a Product manager for Google.



Shayne Sweeney joined up in November of 2010. He was previously the founder of and an Engineer at


Ryan Gomba joined in March of 2012. He was the founder of AppThat, and an engineer at SimpleGeo.


Finally we have Amy Cole, who is the Business Operations manager at Instagram. She joined in October of 2011 previously being a Business Development Manager at Sephora.


These are the main people who took Instagram from a simple idea to a billion dollar one. Of course there are investors of Instagram who provided the initial cash-flow and certainly benefitted from its sale, but these are the people in the trenches.


If you notice, most of these people joined up recently, within the year, if not a few months. This just goes to show that fortune truly does favor the bold, and if your gut is telling you that a risk is worth taking then you shouldn’t hesitate. If you do, you might miss out on the next Pet Rock… or Instagram for that matter.


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