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Kevin Systrom valued Instagram’s independence from Facebook



Kevin Systrom3
Instagram’s outgoing CEO Kevin


  • Instagram’s cofounders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger,
    sensationally quit on Monday.
  • Several reports noted that there have been recent clashes
    with Facebook’s leadership over Instagram’s autonomy, with
    sources saying that Facebook is exerting tighter control over its
    $1 billion acquisition.
  • Systrom dropped clues last year about how much he values
    Instagram’s independence, telling Recode that it’s important “not
    to meddle if things are going really well.”
  • His abrupt departure suggests that Instagram’s freedom
    was being eroded.

Instagram’s two cofounders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, made
a shock announcement on Monday by sensationally announcing their

Although neither offered any real insight on the reasons for
their abrupt departure, several reports have noted that tensions
had been rising between Instagram and its parent company

The Wall Street Journal and
TechCrunch were among those to
suggest that there have been clashes over Instagram’s autonomy in
recent months, with sources pointing out that Facebook is
gripping its $1 billion acquisition tighter.

A concrete example of this came in May, when Facebook integrated
its executive bench more closely into Instagram. Facebook’s Chris
Cox took on responsibility for Instagram, while Instagram’s VP of
Product Kevin Weil moved to Facebook’s blockchain team and was
replaced by Adam Mosseri, formerly the VP of News Feed at

“When Chris started taking initiative and with Adam as more of
the old-school in-crowd of Facebook, it was clear that it wasn’t
going to be pleasant. I saw that this guy [Systrom] is gonna get
squeezed,” a source told TechCrunch.

The moves are unlikely to have gone down well with Systrom, who
last year spoke in some detail about how much he values
Instagram’s independence during a podcast with Kara
Swisher, Recode’s editor-at-large,
in June 2017.

Instagram is based in its own building within Facebook’s Menlo
Park campus, and Systrom said he respects the arms-length
approach Mark Zuckerberg has taken since buying Instagram in

“The thing that made it work was actually not what they did, it’s
what they didn’t do,” he said. “I see Mark practice a tremendous
amount of restraint in giving us the freedom to run, but the
reason why I think he gives us the freedom to run is because when
we run, it typically works.”

Systrom added that Instagram has earned this freedom,
successfully launching products, including Stories. “I’ve learned
that lesson as well, if you give people a runway … Not to
meddle if things are going really well. You leave it alone. And I
think that’s happened in a bunch of areas at Instagram,” he

On the surface, at least, there was little to suggest things had
gone awry at Instagram before the executive changes in May. The
company hit more than a billion users this year and has just
launched television service IGTV, putting it into closer
competition with YouTube.

Zuckerberg described Instagram as an “amazing success” in July,
and even went on to highlight how the structure around Instagram
had helped. “It’s also a story of how effective the integration
has been. We believe Instagram has been able to use Facebook’s
infrastructure to grow more than twice as quickly as it would
have on its own,” he told investors and journalists on a
conference call.

Something clearly changed. So much so, that Systrom and Krieger
failed to mention Zuckerberg in their goodbye letter. The
Facebook CEO was only added in as an afterthought in Systrom and
Krieger’s Instagram messages on their departure.

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