Find the latest episode of "The Uncertain Hour" here. Listen
Corner Office

How a humble stray dog helped launch Instagram

Kai Ryssdal, Millie Jefferson, and Tommy Andres Feb 19, 2015
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Corner Office

How a humble stray dog helped launch Instagram

Kai Ryssdal, Millie Jefferson, and Tommy Andres Feb 19, 2015
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The first Instagram photograph ever was of a stray dog near a taco stand in Mexico, and is now immortalized on a table in the company’s headquarters. 

The company was founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger back in 2010, and just before they launched, the pair tested their creation on a trip.

“We were on vacation in Mexico and I decided I wanted to learn how to make filters and we took a picture of a dog at a taco stand,” Systrom says. “Had I known it was going to be the first photo on Instagram I would’ve tried a little harder.”

Instagram now has more than 300 million worldwide users who now log on to share photos and videos, but that wasn’t initially the app’s purpose.

“Someone once described entrepreneurship to me as a series of happy accidents,” Systrom says. “Initially we wanted to create a game where you checked in at places and shared where you were. You happened to be able to share a photo, but it turns out all people did was share photos. So like any good entrepreneur we spotted an opportunity and as soon as we wrapped our head around that we realized it could be a really powerful platform for expressing yourself or expressing something about a product or a moment.”

Instagram photos have a unique look, not just because of the filters but because of the shape. How did the company arrive at its now-iconic square shape?

“The pictures are square because they were inspired by medium format photography,” Systrom says. “Back in the day I actually studied photography in Florence for a few months and my photography teacher took away my digital camera and said, ‘no, use this, it’s analog and it’s square.’ It was a Holga camera, a very cheap $3 or $4 plastic camera. And that’s what inspired Instagram.”

So what filter does the founder and CEO of Instagram use more than any other?

“Ludwig, it’s one of the new ones we just added and it’s very subtle and beautiful,” he says. “But the real trick is that I use the creative tools. They’re a little more advanced, but I promise you that if you use them your photos will come out better.”

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.