Past midnight, in a dimly lighted warehouse jutting into the San Francisco Bay, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger introduced something they had been working on for weeks: a photo-sharing iPhone application called Instagram. What happened next was crazier than they could have imagined. In a matter of hours, thousands downloaded it. The computer systems handling the photos kept crashing. Neither of them knew what to do. “Who’s, like, the smartest person I know who I can call up?” Mr. Systrom remembered thinking. He scrolled through his phone and found his man: Adam D’Angelo, a former chief technology officer at Facebook. They had met at a party seven years earlier, over beers in red plastic cups, at the Sigma Nu fraternity at Stanford University. That night in October 2010, Mr. D’Angelo became Instagram’s lifeline.
The recent stories that came out after Instagram’s deal with Facebook have been interesting to read, but the previous three paragraphs seem to be the closest to the reality. It’s been a big ride from that night to the Facebook deal for Systrom and Krieger. For me, it’s important to remember that they found hiccups along the way. It didn’t go as smoothly as we can imagine.
The rest of the NY Times article will tell you more about the helpful connections that played a role in Instragram’s growth. It’s a bit concerning how important Stanford University is, actually.