Instagram co-founder Systrom says Zuckerberg relationship is amicable
Systrom says he hopes to preserve the peace with Zuckerberg, particularly given the small social circles of tech’s elite.
Kevin Systrom didn't leave Facebook Inc. on the best of terms. But today, the co-founder of Instagram says he has an "amicable" relationship with Mark Zuckerberg.
Systrom described his interactions with the Facebook chief executive officer in an interview Friday on Bloomberg Television. After Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, the two men were often at odds internally about how much autonomy, and how many resources, Instagram should have, according to a new book by Bloomberg reporter Sarah Frier. It was a tug-of-war that eventually led Systrom to leave unexpectedly in late 2018.
"I saw places where I think we invested appropriately and places where I wish we had invested more," Systrom said in the interview. "But the truth of it is that we grew the platform to over a billion people and you don't do that with nobody, and you don't do that with no resources."
Today, Systrom says he hopes to preserve the peace with Zuckerberg, particularly given the small social circles of tech's elite.
"The most important thing to keep in mind is that, you know, Silicon Valley is a really small place, and we're all very, very young," said the 36-year-old Systrom. "We're going to be around for a while and we're going to be crossing paths and I think it's really important to keep that in mind as you build relationships going forward."
Today, Systrom is building a website to track the Covid-19 outbreak. He also said he's "proud" of how people have been using Instagram during the pandemic. As an example, Systrom mentioned actor John Krasinski, who's started a weekly online news program called "Some Good News."
Systrom hasn't posted to his own permanent feed since May of 2018, shortly after he left the company, but he said he uses the app's Stories feature, where posts disappear after one day and still checks Instagram first thing each morning. As for his decision not to post, "part of this is a personal choice of deciding that when you leave something to, you know, leave quietly and go have some introspective time on what matters to you," he said. "And part of it is just, you know, wanting some privacy every now and then."
If he were in Zuckerberg's shoes now, Systrom said he would "invest a lot" in Instagram, to make sure the app "becomes another pillar of the many products" that Facebook operates. "I think that's the logical argument to make, and the logical thing to do," he said. "And I think [Zuckerberg] is a very logical person."
Systrom said that the current economic environment will probably deal a blow to advertising-based businesses like Facebook, Instagram and Alphabet Inc.'s Google in the near term. Facebook, for example, has already said publicly that its advertising revenue has been impacted by the outbreak. But Facebook and Google are in better shape than most, Systrom said, primarily because they have a cash cushion.
They're not "going to go bankrupt tomorrow and you won't see them ever again," he said. "These companies make a fair amount of margin. They have tons of cash lying around."