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Instagram co-founder on quitting Facebook: ‘No one ever leaves a job because everything’s awesome’

Kevin Systrom hinted there were tensions between him and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

WIRED25 Summit: WIRED Celebrates 25th Anniversary With Tech Icons Of The Past & Future
Kevin Systrom speaks onstage at the WIRED25 Summit on October 15, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED25 )
Matt Winkelmeyer

When Instagram co-founder and former CEO Kevin Systrom thinks back to the start of his social media company, he compares the process to launching a rocket.

"Instagram didn't feel done by any stretch of the imagination, but it felt like it was in orbit. And if we let go and let others take it, it would continue to go on," Systrom said at the WIRED25 Summit in San Francisco on Monday.

In September, Systrom and Instagram's chief technical officer Mike Krieger abruptly announced they were leaving the Facebook-owned photo sharing app after eight years at the helm to explore their "creativity and curiosity again."

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The 34-year-old tech mogul acknowledged that when he started Instagram, he never thought that he would be at the company for eight years. Systrom signaled there were tensions between him and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, but he also said that there were "no hard feelings at all."

"No one ever leaves a job because everything is awesome," Systrom said.

Popular among teens, Instagram gave Facebook a way to compete against newer social media apps such as Snapchat. But as Instagram played a bigger role in Facebook's future, the co-founder of the photo-sharing app reportedly clashed with its parent company over product changes.

Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 when it only had about 30 million users. Now a billion people use Instagram every month. On Oct. 1, Adam Mosseri, Instagram's vice president of product and a longtime Facebook executive, became the head of Instagram. 

Systrom hasn't revealed his next project yet, but said that he's spending his free time now taking care of his daughter, working with entrepreneurs, writing and learning new things such as flying a plane. 

"You never know where inspiration is going to come from," he said.

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