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  • Kevin worked at Google for a couple of years and Mike went on to work

  • at Meebo before they decided to get together and start their company.

  • They do have wonderful things to tell us about their experience,

  • and I won't get in the way and let them start.

  • So welcome back to Stanford. Thank you so much. Thank you, Tina.

  • Thanks so much for having us, Tina, and Stanford.

  • It's great to be back here. I remember...

  • how many years ago now, four or five...

  • sitting in this exact room and watching people stand up and

  • give advice about entrepreneurship and their experience,

  • and it's a little surreal to be standing up and giving back.

  • But it's a really exciting opportunity because,

  • I think in the past year or so since

  • we started what would become Instagram, we've learned a lot.

  • And today what we want to do is go through a series

  • of myths that we think we had learned along the way,

  • or thought were true along the way.

  • And as we did Instagram and as we went through

  • the process of founding this company,

  • we learned that not all of them were necessarily true.

  • So the big caveat here today is,

  • although we're saying all this stuff, experience is what matters.

  • And going through your own experience in a startup is

  • really what helps you debunk these myths as well.

  • So this is our chance to share some learning with you guys.

  • My background, obviously, I went to Stanford. Mike went to Stanford.

  • I studied MS&E, Mike, you studied... SymSys. ... SymSys here.

  • And that was the beginning of our entrepreneurship

  • experience in the Mayfield Fellows program.

  • Like Tina said, we both had really amazing internships

  • then that got us to get interested in entrepreneurship

  • and get excited about doing it when we got out.

  • And both of us after a year or so of working in a

  • larger company decided we wanted to do something.

  • And hopefully today, through that experience,

  • we can shed a little light on what we learned.

  • What we're doing today, Instagram,

  • is kind of interesting because it came out of

  • something we were doing before that didn't quite work.

  • How many people here have actually heard of Instagram/use it? OK.

  • Awesome. Most of the room.

  • How many people have heard of Burbn/use it? Used it.

  • Yeah, like three people. That's awesome.

  • So that's why we started working on Instagram because

  • that's basically the number of hands that went up

  • in the room when we were working on it.

  • Burbn was this check-in app that lets

  • you check into different places,

  • and while you were doing that allowed you to share

  • pictures or videos of what you were doing.

  • Long story short, we worked on that for a little while

  • and then realized it wasn't really going anywhere.

  • But the thing people loved the most about it was

  • actually sharing images of what they were doing.

  • So today, Instagram has about a little less than four million

  • users all sharing images of what they're doing out in the

  • real world through their iPhones on a daily basis.

  • How many mobile photos do we upload per day about now? It's like...

  • Jesus, six a second, more or less. So whatever that times...

  • Yeah, it's a lot. And this is pretty awesome to be in this position

  • only six or seven months after having launched.

  • But the myths we're going to talk about today,

  • I think, really helped us get to the next level and start Instagram

  • by learning that those myths weren't necessarily true.

  • So to start, I think Mike's going to

  • bring you through the first myth.

  • So the first one, when you're just starting out and

  • you're dealing with the bucket of uncertainty that

  • is being an entrepreneur and getting started,

  • you want to latch on to things that you've seen before.

  • We really quickly learned that you just cannot

  • really learn to be an entrepreneur from a book,

  • a blog or a talk, and it turns out that a day on the job was worth a

  • year of experience and what happens is the collection of experiences

  • and knowledge you can get from those sources are super important.

  • And I'm not dismissing them entirely as

  • something that you should just ignore,

  • but that first day when you're starting to make those decisions

  • where the data isn't really there and there hasn't been

  • a blog post posted to Hacker News that was like,

  • 'Deciding what to do on the first day of startup'

  • or 'Making this really tough decision',

  • it turns out a lot of it is very specific to your

  • situation and all you can really learn to do beforehand

  • is try to deal with that uncertainty.

  • So making snap decisions or quick decisions

  • in the face of a lot of uncertainty.

  • We'll hit up on situations early on where we weren't sure

  • if we were going to take Instagram a follow model,

  • for example like Twitter, or more friendship like Facebook.

  • And there is just no blog,

  • book or talk that we could've ever really seen beforehand

  • that would have taught us to do either of those things,

  • since that was about sitting down and saying,

  • 'Well, what do we know beforehand? What does our gut tell us?'

  • And trusting your gut, I think, is a theme of this talk.

  • And so developing a better gut is the

  • work you can invest in beforehand,

  • and then saying, 'All right, let's invest in this.

  • Let's stay the course for a while and really see it through,'

  • rather than wavering for months at a time being,

  • 'Oh, why don't we build both?

  • Then we'll switch off,'

  • maybe make it a preference like 'worst mistake ever,'

  • give up on making that decision and instead make it a preference,

  • and so and so forth where you're having these micro decisions

  • that in the end sum up to what becomes your product basically.

  • And we really rapidly found that,

  • as tempting as it is to go search off for

  • prior accounts of something similar,

  • that's not decision is what makes a difference.

  • But what you can be doing is doing quick projects,

  • side projects during school,

  • even when you're outside when you're doing a job.

  • And most of what we learned and applied into our startup

  • were things that we were doing on the weekends which,

  • depending on the companies,

  • either something encouraged or discouraged.

  • But usually if you're excited enough about something

  • you will find the time to work in it.

  • The other thing is, once you do start a startup,

  • it's super tempting to get caught up

  • in the meta part of doing a startup,

  • so going to entrepreneurship events and being,

  • 'Yes, I want to talk about being an entrepreneur.'

  • We were incubated at Dogpatch Labs, which was a great experience.

  • We were surrounded by 30 startups, a rotating cast.

  • We were there for probably longer than anybody else. Too long.

  • Too long.

  • We saw three or four different classes of startups go through that.

  • And the successful ones were the ones that were in it 9 am

  • and left at 10 or 11 pm and were just putting in the work,

  • and not the ones that showed up at 10, hung around, left at 6,

  • who in my opinion were doing a startup as a lifestyle

  • choice because they didn't want a boss.

  • That's not really a good enough reason to do a startup.

  • It should be that you wake up and you're obsessed

  • with this idea and you want to make it happen,

  • and you're not there to hang around in this

  • club or have this fun chat with people.

  • And that distinction wasn't that apparent to

  • me Day 1 because everybody's doing a startup, this should be a thing.

  • And then one month in people were like, "You guys work really hard."

  • We kept hearing that comment at Dogpatch, and we were.

  • We were working the hours that we felt we wanted

  • to throw into the startup.

  • And I guess it's a gut check if you're finding yourself getting drawn

  • into the meta part of the startup of being an entrepreneur,

  • of being really excited about...

  • Somebody said to us earlier, the phrase was like,

  • "You can't call yourself an entrepreneur. Somebody

  • has to call you an entrepreneur in a way."

  • And it's true. It's very tempting to get caught up in that.

  • And I would encourage you to step back a little bit and find out

  • the only thing that ships products and the only thing ultimately

  • end users care about is the product you deliver to them,

  • not how will they talk about you in TechCrunch or exactly

  • who your investors were or which events you attended.

  • Another myth that we encountered as we started our company...

  • we talked to our friends who were holding

  • back from starting companies...

  • is that startups only come from Computer Science students.

  • Neither Kevin nor I studied Computer Science.

  • And that's something that we're actively proud of,

  • not because Computer Science is a bad degree by any means but

  • because it means you can get the technical chops you need to get

  • things off the ground to get things prototyped and shipped.

  • We built all of the initial version of Instagram ourselves

  • from things we mostly just were self-taught in.

  • The early Twitter employees, none of them even went to college,

  • and our first engineering hire didn't go to college, either.

  • I think with Twitter, maybe they didn't finish college.

  • Maybe they went to it. But it turns out there's things you can

  • do in school that I think are valuable,

  • and when you're trying to pick courses and

  • figure out where to focus your time,

  • the classes I look back to now and think,

  • 'Wow, these are the ones that helped me deal with that uncertainty

  • day to day' are the ones where Day 1 of the quarter they tell you,

  • 'We don't know what you're going to be

  • doing for the rest of the quarter. You'll get this at the d.school

  • a lot and all of the entrepreneurship classes.

  • It's your job to ask the question,

  • figure out the question that you're going to tackle,

  • and then answer it for the rest of the quarter.'

  • And that's just a very different experience from,

  • well, 'These are the 10 problems that you're going

  • to tackle and then we'll deliver them at the end.'

  • And, of course, going through those

  • motions is really important as well,

  • but having that ability to ask the question...

  • and Kevin will talk a little bit more about this in the next one...

  • but also just work through the rest of that quarter.

  • And the rest of it is, the engineering we end up doing we call

  • 'Sink or Swim School of Engineering'.

  • So we launched on this little machine server in Los Angeles.

  • We had no idea what we were doing.

  • We were like, 'Well, maybe some people would sign up.'

  • Within 24 hours, we had so much demand on that one machine that all of

  • a sudden we had to scale out to what we now have, millions of users.

  • None of us had touched Amazon's cloud

  • platform at all before launching;

  • we'd kind of heard of it but shied away from it.

  • And it turns out that there's no motivation stronger than

  • a bunch of people knocking at your door saying,

  • "I want to use your product. Fix your thing." We'd put in a lot of...

  • I don't really remember the first two months

  • of our startup because we didn't sleep,

  • and I think short-term memory goes out of the way.

  • I'm told we put in a lot of late nights that were all about saying,

  • 'What do we need to do to get our products

  • to a place where people can keep using it,

  • get excited about it, scale to the challenge?'

  • And you'll learn those things because you're bright and intelligent,

  • you started a company because you trust yourself.

  • So having that faith and not shying away

  • from a big challenge because you're,

  • 'Well, what if we're successful? We won't know how to scale...'

  • I barely really knew how to use a lot of the Linux

  • Sysadmin stuff and now we know it really well,

  • and if we did it again we'd have a totally different approach.

  • But it's a little bit of zen beginner's mind:

  • you focus on the simple, important stuff first if you're not

  • worried about scaling ahead of time.

  • It's really good to have friends that are Computer Science students.

  • Absolutely. It's all the building that network. Week 1...

  • I had worked at Meebo beforehand and

  • I was doing mostly frontend development,

  • so I wasn't doing a lot of hardcore scaling stuff...

  • and I remember 8 am in the morning I'd be waking up

  • my friends who led more normal jobs and be like,

  • 'I have no idea what this means.

  • How do I do this?' They'd come in, we'd buy them beer.

  • And you build that network and they'll help you out

  • because they're excited about what you're doing,

  • and it becomes less about feeling like you're

  • the entire source of knowledge for yourself. Right.

  • And I think what I'd add to the original point of going to events or

  • talks is that it turns out what you get from those things aren't necessarily

  • the takeaway is that we're going to put up here on the board,

  • but it's the people sitting next to you,

  • it's the people you meet before the event, after the event.

  • The people that you're sitting next to chatting

  • with them about the stuff that you're doing,

  • they'll end up being the most valuable part of your

  • entrepreneurship experience going down the line.

  • The fact that I remember being at a party...

  • I think it was maybe sophomore year in college