Startup Advice

Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger explains what he would have done differently in the social platform’s early days

Martin Kovacs /

Photo sharing platform Instagram has experienced stunning success in a short period of time. However, co-founder and chief technology officer Mike Krieger has revealed there are some things he would have done differently in the company’s early days, even before it was acquired by Facebook.

In an interview with First Round Review, Krieger stressed the importance of hiring generalists rather than specialists in the early days of a startup, the need for flexibility and promoting diversity.

Looking back, he reflected in Instagram’s early stages that leaders “didn’t put enough of an emphasis on hiring a diverse team”.

“If you’re interviewing your first female engineer, and she shows up and thinks, ‘Wow, this team is huge and all guys’, that just makes the barrier even higher,” he says.

“That really does happen, and if you can avoid that, you’re in much better shape.”

Krieger observed building a diverse team in turn provided measurable benefits.

“Once a couple of women had joined the team, we were excited to bring on many more women much more easily,” he said.

“From doing events, to interviewing, to writing tech blogs and just being visible, it catalysed a stronger team.”

Krieger also pointed to the importance of manager behaviours, observing Instagram was “a solid year-and-a-half, two years in” before it started undertaking one-on-one feedback sessions.

“I remember opening up those first one-on-ones with people and thinking, ‘Wow, there’s a lot beneath the surface that nobody was talking about,’” he reflects.

Krieger described it as “an eye-opening moment”.

“When you’re a founder, you’re implicitly happy — or that’s not even a question you ask, because the company is your baby and you’re trying to let it grow,” he said.

“People who join are invested in its success, but they’re also living, breathing humans with desires and needs and problems. That moment of transition between generalist and specialist is when we started having more management. In retrospect, I would have done it much sooner.”

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Martin Kovacs

Martin Kovacs is a journalist with experience covering the IT, consumer electronics, retail, finance and energy sectors.

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