No one likes to be told that the thing they’re the most passionate about isn’t worthwhile. Least of all, an entrepreneur who’s pouring their soul into a venture in lieu of taking a more cushy traditional job.
Instagram founder Kevin Systrom admits to being “furious” when Andreessen Horowitz passed on giving follow-on funding to the company, due to conflicts in its portfolio.
“It wasn’t so much the Andreessen Horowitz folks. I was just furious how we were being portrayed in the press,” says Systrom. The company had worked so hard and had finally broken through with a product it was proud of, and now people were trashing it. “It’s a catty game in the startup world and the press world. People are out to win.”
The problem was that Andreessen Horowitz was widely respected, and people across the Valley interpreted their passing on the deal as a judgement against the company. Even early user and longtime supporter Robert Scoble wrote a blog post asking, “Is our love of Instagram misplaced?”
Looking back, Systrom admits that the apparent slight made his small team work harder to prove itself. One of the biggest challenges that all companies face, according to the founder, is never thinking they’ve won, or arrived. It’s too easy at that point to start acting differently.
Everyone is driven by different things, and Systrom says that his focus on passion over money came from his family. In fact, he claims to feel more pressure to succeed since being acquired, and he has no plans of settling at 100 million users.
“I’m not going to be coy and say that selling for a certain amount of money is not awesome – it’s great,” Systrom says. “But at the same time, it’s not what gets you up in the morning. I commute for a reason. I show up at work in the morning for a reason.”