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Innovation

Never feel limited or kill your dreams or passion just because you think some one else is already doing it

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Kevin York Systrom (born December 30, 1983) is an American programmer and entrepreneur. He created Instagram, the world’s largest photo sharing website. He co‑founded Instagram along with Mike Krieger. Instagram is ranked world’s 14th most visited site by Alexa rankings. He was keen programmer and loved photography. Under Systrom as CEO, Instagram has become a fast growing app, with 800 million monthly users as of September 2017. Systrom resigned as CEO of Instagram on September 24, 2018.

Early life and education

Systrom was born in 1983 in Holliston, Massachusetts. He is the son of Diane (Pels), a marketing executive at Zipcar, who also worked at Monster and Swapit during the first dotcom bubble, and Douglas Systrom, Vice President in Human Resources at TJX Companies. Systrom attended Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, where he was introduced to computer programming. His interest grew from playing Doom 2 and creating his own levels as a child. He worked at Boston Beat, a vinyl-record store in Boston, while he was in high school. Systrom attended Stanford University and graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in management science and engineering. At Stanford, he was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. He spent the winter term of his third year in Florence, where he studied photography. He got his first taste of the startup world when he was chosen as one of twelve students to participate in the Mayfield Fellows Program at Stanford University. The fellowship led to his internship at Odeo, the company that eventually gave rise to Twitter.

Google

After graduating Stanford, he joined Google working on Gmail, Google Calendar, Docs, Spreadsheets and other products. He spent two years at Google as a product marketer; Systrom left Google out of frustration of not being moved into the Associate Product Manager program.

Burbn

After leaving Google to join Nextstop, a location recommendation startup founded by ex-Googlers that was acquired by Facebook in 2010, Systrom thought of combining location check-ins and popular social games. He made the prototype of what later became Burbn and pitched it to Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz at a party. He came up with the idea while on a vacation in Mexico when his girlfriend was unwilling to post her photos because they did not look good enough when taken by the iPhone 4 camera. The solution to the problem was to use filters, effectively hiding the qualitative inferiority of the photographs. Subsequently, Systrom developed the X-Pro II filter that is still in use on Instagram today. Today, here in Africa we rather turn to shy away from the problems we are faced with daily. Here is an American who has the same blood that flows through our veins in his, transforming and seeing great opportunities in the problems he is faced with. Today, the world has no choices but talk about Kevin York Systrom.

After the first meeting, he decided to quit his job in order to explore whether or not Burbn could become a company. Within 2 weeks of quitting his job, he received US$500,000 seed funding round from both Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. While in San Francisco, Systrom and Mike Krieger built Burbn, a HTML 5 check-in service, into a product that allowed users to do many things: check into locations, make plans (future check-ins), earn points for hanging out with friends, post pictures, and much more. However, recalling their studies in Mayfield Fellows Program, Krieger and Systrom identified that Burbn contained too many features and the users did not want a complicated product. They decided to focus on one specific feature, photo-sharing. The development of Burbn led to creation of Instagram. A month after launching, Instagram had grown to 1 million users. A year later, Instagram hit more than 10 million users.

Instagram

In 2010, Systrom co‑founded the photo-sharing and, later, video-sharing social networking service Instagram with Mike Krieger in San Francisco, California.In April 2012, Instagram, along with 13 employees, was sold to Facebook for US$1 billion in cash and stock. According to multiple reports, the deal netted Systrom US$400 million based on his ownership stake in the business. One of the key contributions to the acquisition is that Mark Zuckerberg stated Facebook is “committed to building and growing Instagram independently”, allowing Systrom to continue to lead Instagram.[20] Systrom stated in an interview with Bloomberg that the pros of becoming a part of Facebook were that “we got to pair up with a juggernaut of a company that understands how to grow, understands how to build a business, has one of the best, if not the best, management team in tech and we got to use them as our resource”.

In an interview with Forbes, he stated that “Instagram is a new form of communication that’s an ideal fit with the always-with-you iPhone in today’s social media world. Instagram’s a social network built around photos, where people can quickly comment on or ‘like’ photos and share them on Twitter or Facebook.” Systrom identifies Instagram as a media company, which explains the roll-out of video advertisement by big companies such as Disney, Activision, Lancome, Banana Republic and CW in late 2014.

Under Systrom’s leadership, Instagram developed key features like the Explore tab, filters, and video. Over time, Instagram has rolled out features allowing users to upload and filter photographs and short videos, follow other users’ feeds, geotag images, name location, and comment on other users’ photographs and short videos. Instagram allowed the development of web profiles in 2012, connecting accounts to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr in 2013, an Explore tab in mid-2012, and Video in June 2013.[24] Instagram offers 19 photographic filters; Normal, 1977, Amaro, Branna, Earlybird, Hefe, Hudson, Inkwell, Kelvin, Lo-fi, Mayfair, Nashville, Rise, Sierra, Sutro, Toaster, Valencia, Willow, X-Pro II. Systrom hired former Yahoo Vice-President James Everingham, as well as Kevin Weil, who formerly headed product development at Twitter, as high-ranking executives at Instagram.

As of October 2015, 40 billion pictures had been shared on Instagram.

As of June 2016, Instagram had over 500 million active users.

Also in 2016, CNN quoted a study according to which Snapchat was regarded as the most important social network among teenagers aged 14 to 19, the first time in two years that Instagram did not feature at the top.

Instagram currently employs around 450 people. The app is used by 600 million people per month and 300 million per day. Its competitors Snapchat and Twitter employ more people for a smaller user base, with Twitter having 3,500 employees for 317 million monthly users, and Snapchat employing 1,500 people for half of Instagram’s daily user base.

In the future, Systrom seeks to develop Instagram further to better integrate the use of videos into the app. He also stated that in a few years, the company might be getting involved in Virtual Reality products.

According to Quartz and the New York Times, Systrom and Krieger implemented a system to overcome bottlenecks and slow decision-making in the company by scheduling meetings in which only decisions are taken. This approach was informed by Systrom’s interest in academic business theories, in particular Clayton M. Christensen‘s concept of The Innovator’s Dilemma.

On September 24, 2018, it was announced that Systrom has resigned from Instagram and will be leaving in few weeks.

Views on copying ideas in the industry

Instagram has been accused on multiple occasions for copying various new functions from its closest competitor Snapchat. Regarding the issue, Systrom argued that all new services launched by tech companies nowadays are “remixes” of existing products, and that “all of these ideas are original when you remix them and bring your own flavour”. Systrom also argued that ‘you can trace the roots of every feature anyone has in their app, somewhere in the history of technology’ and that this was simply ‘just the way Silicon Valley works.  Never feel limited or kill you dreams or passion just because you think some one else is already doing what you are thinking of. The curent system just demands that you add your own flavour and move on.

Forbes list

In 2014, Systrom was listed in the Forbes 30 under 30 list under the Social/Mobile category.

In 2016, the magazine ranked Systrom as a billionaire with an estimated net worth of US$1.1 billion. The fortune came about as a result of Facebook stocks rising more than 500%.

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Innovation

“Let’s make Africa a digital Africa,” Jack Ma tells entrepreneurs

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From Madagascar to Liberia, Africa’s “digital lions” are preparing to roar, speakers said at an event co-organized by UNCTAD, the Alibaba Business School and the Jack Ma Foundation at South Africa’s Wits University on 8 August. The day-long e-commerce and technology event featured an announcement by Jack Ma, co-founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, of a $10 million prize fund for African internet entrepreneurs, to be known as the African Netpreneur Prize. “Let’s make Africa a digital Africa,” Mr. Ma said at the event, dubbed Netpreneurs: The Rise of Africa’s Digital Lions. Mr. Ma, who currently serves as UNCTAD special adviser for young entrepreneurs and small business, said he always believed that “when everything is ready it’s always too late” for entrepreneurs. Their role is to create the conditions to prosper, not wait for them. Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said by video that he would sit on the African Netpreneur Prize advisory board. “All young Africans should seize the opportunity to aim high,” Mr. Ban said. “Put your best foot forward and I look forward to your application to the African Netpreneur Prize.”

Jack Ma in South africa

Around 30 African graduates of the eFounders Fellowship Programme, launched in 2017 and run by UNCTAD and the Alibaba Business School, also attended the event. “Those of us from Africa, and friends of Africa, are facing the challenge of how to convert the young talents emerging in Africa into a dividend and not a curse,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.

“As everyone keeps telling them ‘go and make employment for yourself,’ how can we make it possible for them to create employment?” he said.

“Since last year, UNCTAD and Alibaba have been recruiting a number of young net entrepreneurs and sending them to Alibaba Business School in Hangzhou, China, for a short intense training on the possibilities on electronic market platforms, gaining visibility on the global market through remote technology and liberating small-scale producers through a conscious, purposeful impact investment in linking them to the electronic market.”

Dr. Kituyi described these eFounders fellows as the start of “an army of impatient entrepreneurs” that will ignite a digital revolution in Africa.

Kenyan eFounder fellow Catherine Mahugu described her journey as a technology professional and entrepreneur. After her encounter with Alibaba in Hangzhou she founded an e-commerce coffee export firm.

Another, Nigerian eFounder fellow Adetayo Bamidura, founded MAX, a platform that uses mobile apps to connect businesses and commuters to safe and affordable motorcycle-taxis on demand.

Africa’s opportunity

17958413 – finger is touching african continent on virtual map

South Africa’s science and technology minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said “innovation coupled with entrepreneurship is the engine of growth of any modern economy”.

“The emerging fourth industrial revolution, which will affect and change the whole world, demands that we invest in information and communication technology infrastructure – otherwise we will be spectators of this revolution and not active participants,” she said.

Wits University acting vice chancellor Tawana Kupe asked “Where is Africa in the fourth industrial revolution?”

Three panel discussions were held in answer, the first on how governments and policymakers can nurture innovation in the digital economy.

Botswana’s investment, trade and industry minister Bogolo Kenewendo said the “last mile” of internet infrastructure was often the hardest in Africa, but “policy infrastructure” in terms of laws, regulations and government awareness of the issues was at least as important.

South African economist Miriam Altman agreed, and said that digital infrastructure was often seen by African governments as “something extra” on top of traditional infrastructure needs like water and electricity.

University of Johannesburg vice-chancellor and principal Tshilidzi Marwala added that he thought governments should make provision for free Wi-Fi, as well as “virtual economic zones” to spur investment.

Lion cubs

“I have to be honest, the digital economy concept has been so slow to catch on in governments,” Ms. Kenewendo said.

This included in “soft” policy areas like education as well as in “hard” infrastructure like broadband, she said.

For Ms. Altman, “kids get it,” but “institutions often don’t.”

She said that basic standard-setting and building a digital infrastructure was incumbent on governments – not just in Africa – and e-commerce would flow from that.

Ms. Kenewondo said that young digitally-aware Africans should not afraid to be disruptors because “what we have now clearly isn’t working for us”.

“I encourage you to throw away your caution,” she said.

Panellists agreed that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was a welcome step toward freer regional circulation of goods, but much work remained to be done on transport logistics and connectivity.

Investing in talent

A second panel addressed access to capital and investment.

Mara Corporation founder Ashish J. Thakkar said that with M-Pesa, Kenya’s mobile money system, covering 98% of that country’s GDP, Africa had proved that it could develop, use and exploit new technologies.

AfricInvest venture capital director Selma Ribica said that M-Pesa’s success, and that of Nigerian ecommerce giant Jumia and others, was itself a spur to investment capital and now it was pouring in – to the tune of $500 million in 2017.

However, she cautioned, so far this flow of investment was unevenly distributed in a few sectors and mostly to just three African countries: Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

IFC Venture Capital’s Africa head Wale Ayeni said that “angel investing” was in its infancy in Africa but this was changing.

A third panel considered skills gaps and employment for young people.

Wambui Kinya, chief strategy officer of Andela, a full-service tech talent agency which spots, trains and places African developers and other technology professionals, urged businesses in Africa not to look outside the continent for their technology service needs.

“Africa has the tech talent they need,” she said.

Hubs and ecosystems

Mr. Kupe said Wits University had launched a digital innovation hub five years ago in partnership with the private sector with students working in areas as diverse as fintech, health and gaming.

“Our challenge is to make digital life the ‘new normal’,” Mr. Kupe said of his university’s commitment to future-forward education. “We must change our mindset.”

Anna Ekeledo, executive director of AfriLabs, a community of 100 innovation hubs in 30 African countries aiming to build technical and entrepreneurial skills and engage in policy advocacy, said that the linkage between academia and innovation hubs needs to be strengthened.

She said she was looking forward to scaling businesses as a result of trade reforms under AfCFTA, and other ways of turbocharging the “enabling environment for digital ecosystems”.

As well as the panellists, eFounders fellows, students, other participants and dignitaries, the event was also attended by UN Women’s executive director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and China’s ambassador to South Africa, Lin Songtian.

 

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