Look, I don’t know what happened at Facebook that caused Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger to step down from their roles
. Maybe nothing happened! It sure doesn’t seem
like nothing happened just given the timing, but who knows. Probably only a handful of people, for sure.
But that’s no fun. It’s more fun to speculate. And I think it’s warranted simply given how important the company is to the fabric of our modern day web. It’s one of the services that kicked off the app boom. And its billion-dollar acquisition seemed to kick off another era in the startup ecosystem. And so the departure of its co-founders may signal something yet again. We shall see.
But right now what I see are two interesting potential subplots. Again, who knows for sure, but triangulation usually wins in the end. And there’s definitely quite a bit of smoke here
, Facebook has gotten a lot of praise over the years as a great acquirer — and rightfully so, the track record speaks for itself. While it was scoffed at by many at the time (though not by all of us
), Instagram will go down as one of the savviest deals ever. It’s right there with Google buying YouTube. And the amount of value created post-acquisition is insanely impressive.
And yet, all good things… In the past, Facebook has gotten so much praise for not only picking acquisition targets well, but for staying the hell out of the way post-close to let the companies keep doing what they were doing. I always come back to this as the single most important, if obvious, thing Facebook has done right in this regard. It’s just ahead of providing capital and a talent pool. But that first part is key: 99% of acquirers fuck up that first part. And it’s insane.
And yet, and yet, we get it. You bought a toy. For a lot of money. You want to play with that toy.
And, of course, sometimes you have to step in and shake things up or change things around to fix things and/or help companies reach their potential. But what’s crazy with Facebook is that Operation Leave-Them-Alone has worked so well time and time again. See: Instagram. WhatsApp. Oculus.
And yet, and yet, and yet still, given enough time, they seem to keep messing it up. See: Oculus. WhatsApp. And now Instagram!
Of course, it’s easy to say “WTF?!” from afar. But maybe that’s part of the problem. Facebook lulls itself to sleep with continued success and then eventually feels the need to meddle. And it’s even easy to see why on a day-to-day basis. There’s just so much money sitting there on the table, just waiting to be exploited.
Which leads to point two.
People increasingly don’t feel good
about using social media. And Facebook, as the king of social media, faces the brunt of this. At the same time, on the other end of the spectrum, you have the young people growing up who may have Facebook accounts as a default rite of passage, but don’t actually use the network. And don’t intend to. It’s what their parents use. These are the Facebook-Nevers
The issue here is that those major problems were immediately solved by Instagram. Because it was run so autonomously, the two brands managed to stay remarkably separate. And so they were in peoples’ minds. That has been changing over time…
It was probably always inevitable
. But the macro problems above undoubtedly accelerated the issue. After all, Facebook is a public company which has to hit its numbers. And it is sitting on a Sutro-tinted gold mine in Instagram.
And it’s potentially much bigger than that: it could be not just a lifeboat from when (not if) Facebook has to bail from its own namesake social network, but one day, a new main vessel
The second biggest reason was WhatsApp. Third, Oculus. (With a special shout out to whatever the skunkworks crypto team is working on.) And in the past couple of years, Facebook has seemingly screwed up all of them to varying degrees. By meddling
Again, on a micro level, you can see why! On a macro level, it’s batshit crazy. But as anyone who has ever worked at a big company knows, these things tend to happen…
Anyway, just a quick rant after reading this news tonight. Again, it’s impossible to overstate how important Instagram has been over the past decade
. And that was all Kevin and Mike having a vision and executing on it (yes, with the help of Facebook) to a degree not seen before. End of an era.
Drinking: a burbn 😉🥃