Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom has opened up about how Hollywood dilutes the photo-sharing tool, pressures on him to find the next billion-dollar idea and his favorite celebrity user.
Systrom sat for a wide-ranging conversation with September’s Interview magazine, reflecting on the five-year-old company that was acquired for $1 billion by Facebook in 2012, which has become an essential tool for creatives and their fans.
Instagram counts 300 million active users sharing 30 billion photos per month, according to the latest internal data, and Systrom gushed about the communities that make up the population. One he’s not so thrilled about: managers and PR machines who exert control over star accounts.
“When it becomes about curation and a veneer, it’s not nearly as authentic. I think the worst version of this is when celebrities have their teams take over their accounts. They don’t manage it, and it becomes upkeep,” Systrom told the magazine, part of an issue devoted entirely to social media stars.
“What we’ve seen is that when people show their real selves — what they’re dealing with every day, what they’re thinking about — it’s actually when they get the most engagement,” he said.
Systrom holds actress and “Girls” creator Lena Dunham as an Instagram alpha user.
“I think Instagram at its best is where you feel like you’re getting the most authentic version of the person on the other side of the camera. Someone who does this wonderfully well is Lena Dunham,” he said.
“She’s obviously a celebrity in her own right, but she’s posting stuff like photos from bed, reading a book, when her dog is sick — she’s bringing you along. And perhaps that’s what makes her so special, and why she’s so famous, because everyone can relate to that person who has these problems in real life.”
When asked about the “tension” of finding another project to match the success of Instagram, Systrom said he had no desire to put his attention outside his current office.
“The fallacy in the question is you can’t do new things within Instagram… actually having a company that’s successful is a wonderful platform to do new things. You don’t have to raise money for it; you can take profits from the company and pump them into new business. You can fail and restart and still have your core business.,” he said.
The 31-year-old said the company has “set our sights on working in the world of fashion,” which comes as no surprise — he was this year’s recipient of the Council of Fashion Designers of America Media Award.
“We want to feel at home in these places and understand them. We love our community,” he said.
An Instagram spokesperson did not immediately return TheWrap’s request for comment on a specific fashion collaboration.