$1 billion acquisition are rare, especially for a company with only about a dozen employees. But if you want to model your startup after a company with great appeal, then angel investor and Turntable.fm Chairman Seth Goldstein offers a few lessons you can learn from Instagram, a company which today Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook has purchased for $1 billion:
- Focus on the investor, not the firm. Goldstein says, “Too many young entrepreneurs focus on the brand of the firm, as opposed to the brand of the individual investor at that firm, who would be joining the board.” He believes Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom got it right choosing to work with Benchmark’s Matt Cohler, Baseline’s Steve Anderson, and others.
- Optimize the experience natively for one platform for as long as possible. While many people criticized Instagram for not doing a land grab, it was wise to focus on iOS, building its user base up to 30 million users.
- Stay lean. Don’t over-hire regardless of the size of your bank account. Instagram reportedly had 13 employees as of just last week.
- Stay “foolish,” as Steve Jobs famously told Stanford grads. Keep your product playful and quirky, regardless of how many users you have.
- Give users choices to personalize, but not too many choices. Like Twitter, Instagram is simple to use, so simple that many people have discounted it as just a “feature.”
The sixth we’d add is to listen to your own internal compass. With the exception of focusing on individual investors, Kevin Systrom was doubted on many of these points. But he listened to his gut, and his approach built something millions of people love and ultimately won him and his investors a huge payday.
He might very well have failed following each of these tips, and he wouldn’t have been the first. But at least he would have failed on his own terms.