Systrom confirmed the move in a blog post Monday evening, following an earlier report by the New York Times about the duo’s departure. In the post, Systrom said he and Krieger plan to take time off “to explore our curiosity and creativity again.”
Systrom and Krieger, fellow Stanford alums, founded Instagram in 2010. Facebook acquired Instagram two years later for $1 billion — and it has since grown to a community of more than 1 billion monthly users.
Their departure raises uncertainty over the future of Instagram, which has been able to sustain a dramatic growth trajectory while largely avoiding headaches that have befallen its parent company. Facebook has been the target of U.S. government investigations into how its platform has been used to manipulate the 2016 election and the misappropriation of user data by consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.
“Mike and I are grateful for the last eight years at Instagram and six years with the Facebook team,” Systrom wrote. “We’ve grown from 13 people to over a thousand with offices around the world, all while building products used and loved by a community of over one billion. We’re now ready for our next chapter.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a statement, said, “Kevin and Mike are extraordinary product leaders and Instagram reflects their combined creative talents. I’ve learned a lot working with them for the past six years and have really enjoyed it. I wish them all the best and I’m looking forward to seeing what they build next.”
An Instagram rep declined to provide additional comment. It’s not clear who will assume day-to-day management of Instagram with the co-founders’ exits.
“When Instagram joined us, the team had only 16 people,” Zuckerberg said on the company’s Q2 earnings call July 25. “We believe Instagram has been able to use Facebook’s infrastructure to grow more than twice as quickly as it would have on its own. A big congratulations to the Instagram team — and to all the teams across our company that have contributed to this success.”
Instagram has become a key contributor to Facebook’s growth and profits, and is growing at a faster rate than Facebook. (The social media giant doesn’t break out financial results for Instagram.) Instagram has 25 million business profiles and 2 million advertisers, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told investors on the July earnings call.
Systrom has credited Facebook’s ownership with fueling the growth of Instagram and helping it quickly launch new features, like live-streaming video. However, both Systrom and Krieger reportedly had clashed with strategic directives from the Facebook leadership team regarding Instagram’s evolution. The disagreements have included the issue of how user content is shared between Instagram and Facebook, according to a Recode report.
Instagram became a preferred platform for celebrities and influencers because it has focused on fostering a safe and upbeat environment, Systrom told Variety in an interview last year. “People say Instagram is super positive and optimistic. In fact, we have a ton of negative stuff, but we’re going after it before we have a problem,” he said.
Here’s the full statement from Systrom about his and Krieger’s decision to leave Instagram:
Mike and I are grateful for the last eight years at Instagram and six years with the Facebook team. We’ve grown from 13 people to over a thousand with offices around the world, all while building products used and loved by a community of over one billion. We’re now ready for our next chapter.
We’re planning on taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again. Building new things requires that we step back, understand what inspires us and match that with what the world needs; that’s what we plan to do.
We remain excited for the future of Instagram and Facebook in the coming years as we transition from leaders to two users in a billion. We look forward to watching what these innovative and extraordinary companies do next.
Kevin Systrom, Co-Founder & CEO