Mar 12, 2019

Instagram founders talk leaving Facebook at South by Southwest

Tech Crunch editor-at-large Josh Constine (L) interviews Instagram co-founders Mike Krieger (C) and Kevin Systrom at SXSW 2019. Photo: Jim Bennett/WireImage via Getty Images

Months after their departure from Facebook, Instagram's co-founders took to the stage at SXSW to explain why they sold their company to Facebook, and why they left the social network.

The big picture: “The idea behind it was that we wanted to make a bet on the company,” Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said of the decision to sell to Facebook. And if the goal was to pick a company that would help Instagram continue to grow, that bet paid off, he said.

While a lack of autonomy may have driven Systrom and co-founder Mike Krieger to leave Facebook, it was also inevitable.

  • "In some ways, there being less autonomy is a function of Instagram winning,” Systrom said. “It got to a size where it was meaningfully important to the company. It’s just an unavoidable thing if you’re successful.”

More from the interview:

  • Adding ads to Instagram: “To be clear, we were the ones pushing monetization, not the other way around,” Systrom said. We believed Instagram has to make money somehow... Whether you like ads or not, put that aside, we have to make money somehow.”
  • Warren’s proposal to break up tech: “I’d like to see … more specificity on … what problem are we solving… what integrations and problems we’re talking about… and think through what the externalities would be,” Krieger said. Systrom added that some problems like rising economic inequality and Russian election meddling are serious but are better addressed with real solutions than simply riding the anti-tech wave.
  • Whether there can be a new social media hit: “I think it’s possible,” Systrom said. “It comes in waves and you’d be surprised how determined consumers are to have another good solution. … I’d be really surprised if there wasn’t another.”

What's next: Systrom and Krieger were coy on their next move, but seemed to indicate they might be game for another startup.

Go deeper: Instagram overshadows Facebook as an engagement powerhouse

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Sign of the times: A pro-Warren super PAC

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a rally in Nevada. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A group of women progressives who back Sen. Elizabeth Warren has formed Persist PAC, a super PAC airing pro-Warren ads starting Wednesday in an effort to boost her performance ahead of Saturday's crucial Nevada caucuses, a spokesman told Axios.

Why it matters: Warren has spoken adamantly against the influence of unlimited spending and dark money in politics. But these supporters have concluded that before Warren can reform the system, she must win under the rules that exist — and that whether she likes it or not, their uncoordinated help may be needed to keep her viable through this weekend's contest and into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 53 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Pentagon policy chief resigns amid reported discord with Trump

John Rood. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

John Rood, the Pentagon's top policy official, will resign from his post at the end of the month, CNN first reported and President Trump confirmed.

The state of play: CNN said Rood "was perceived as not embracing some of the changes in policy the White House and senior Pentagon officials wanted," such as peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban and a decision to cut back on military exercises with South Korea as the president courted North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

Coronavirus cases rise, as warnings of global pandemic grow

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

We may be "at the brink" of a global pandemic, warns a top U.S. public health official, as cases continue to spread despite containment efforts. Meanwhile, the global economy is being affected, including the tech manufacturing industry.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,000 people and infected over 75,000 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 136 new deaths since Tuesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health