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When Kevin Systrom combined his professional experience at start-ups with his personal passion for photography and co-founded Instagram (aka, the best app ever), he was putting creativity and bold ideas before profit. It’s the formula championed by our current generation of forward-thinking entrepreneurs. The fact that Systrom sold Instagram to Facebook for approximately $1 billion earlier this year is the proof it works (big, fat proof).
But, unlike so many Internet multimillionaires (we're looking at you, Zuckerberg), Systrom has left behind the de rigueur Silicon Valley business suit — sandals and a hoodie. A former Massachusetts prep-school kid, he’s far more comfortable in chambray button-downs, desert boots, and pegged jeans as he charts Instagram’s future from its sunny, midcentury-styled San Francisco office.
Inspired by his drive, creativity, and style, we asked this millennial poster boy for success to give us a few wise words on his personal path, his custom-built offices, the New Suit for the start-up worker, and, of course, to follow our Instagram feed.
“I actually started working at start-ups while I was still at Stanford. Around then, I did an internship at Odeo (which eventually became Twitter). Then I spent nearly three years at Google. After that, I split off to work with some co-workers on a start-up — that didn't pan out. Eventually, I decided to work on one independently with my co-founder, Mike Krieger, and that's how Instagram came to be.”
“Originally, we worked on a pier in San Francisco at two desks we rented in a co-working space. Back then, we were so enveloped in our work that work space was rarely a concern. Recently though, we've gone to great lengths to work with a designer to make a work space that really feels like our own. I look around this space now and think how far we’ve come from two desks!”
“People assume that because we work at Instagram, we're hipsters. Thing is, I went to boarding school on the East Coast, so it'd be tough to find me in a shirt without a collar. I guess that makes me a creature of habit, though I’m all about matching with a great pair of funky shoes.”
No Sweat (Shirts)
“I definitely try to dress up more than most people at a start-up — you won't find us in hoodies here. We're craftspeople, and I think that shows in our choices, whether they be software design choices or what we wear. That said, I want people to know we work hard, but that we're not too serious. I think I'd get banned from my office if I showed up in a suit.”
“There are long days and stressful times with a growing company, so it’s super important to stay comfortable, happy, and confident. Invest in basics that make you feel good — a great watch, solid shoes for different occasions, etc. Trust me, a tiny bit of effort to cover the basics goes a long, long way.”
Levi's 511 Skinny Trousers, $58, available at Levi.com
Levi's Stock Workshirt, $68, available at Levi.com.
Photographed by Maia Harms, Hair by Kendall Shira, Makeup by Katie Nash.