Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram was a watershed moment for Big Tech. It demonstrated just how much wealth and power the industry holds — and how it could be wielded. Secret emails, published as part of a historic antitrust hearing, revealed that Mark Zuckerberg viewed the app as a threat to his own social network, and one to be neutralized at great cost. In this excerpt from No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram, author Sarah Frier offers a window into how this monumental deal unfolded behind the scenes — and what Silicon Valley power looks like in action.
In early 2012, Twitter had been aggressively courting Instagram for a potential acquisition. Instagram’s founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, were wined and dined over sushi and breakfast at the St. Regis hotel. Twitter even put together a term sheet to acquire them for 7% to 10% of its stock, worth $500 million to $700 million. CEO Dick Costolo explained his vision: that Systrom would get to continue running Instagram, but could also be head of Twitter’s product, and help Twitter become a more visual destination.
Systrom told Jack Dorsey, his friend and then-executive chairman of Twitter, that he couldn’t sell now. He wanted to make Instagram so big and important, it would be too expensive to be acquired by anybody. Dorsey said he understood. He introduced Systrom to Roelof Botha, a partner at Sequoia Capital, who started negotiating to put the venture firm’s money into Instagram.
Systrom would tell his friends that Twitter never made a serious offer. In reality, they never offered him anything he wanted to take seriously. Only Mark Zuckerberg understood what would appeal to Systrom: independence.
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