Article in Mobile Future, Mobile, Startup, Tech Industry, Technology, New York City, iPhone categories.
The Billion-Dollar App and the Coding Myth
By now, we’ve all nearly recovered from the hoopla that was Facebook’s billion-dollar acquisition of Instagram. (Well, some Twitter users are still a bit peeved.)…
By now, we’ve all nearly recovered from the hoopla that was Facebook’s billion-dollar acquisition of Instagram. (Well, some Twitter users are still a bit peeved.) The incredible valuation of a two-year-old company is representative of the tech industry’s significant growth - and a source of tech bubble talk — one we see stretched to the limit in massive seed-funding rounds and overly confident startups.
As mobile app developers, we can’t say we’re not gratified to see the degree of attention — and, you know, cash — that’s being attributed to tech start-ups and relatively new mobile applications. The industry no longer seems so specialized or isolated; rather, it’s stylish, attractive, and shockingly lucrative.
Instagram has just a dozen employees and no revenue — but just before Facebook scooped it up, the photo-sharing app secured $50 million in Series B funding from Sequoia and other big-name investors, reported TechCrunch yesterday.
Now, Instagram is an incredibly popular app. Its expansion to the Android platform earlier this week brought in a million new users in under twelve hours. This popularity, when twinned with investors’ very serious interest, gets attention — especially from those who see the opportunity for imitation. (Opportunism — the sincerest form of flattery?)
This comes in part from a story that Instagram’s CEO, Kevin Systrom, has told about himself. As Betabeat notes, it’s the kind of story that has dangerous potential to become myth. Systrom wrote on Quora that, despite heading one of the most valuable tech companies in existence, “I don’t have any formal CS degree or training.” He learned to code, he writes, by teaching himself at night while working in marketing. (How’d he get funding? Oh, he just met some VCs at a party and raised $500,000. Simple!)
While Fueled has written before about the benefits of programs like Codecademy — and we wholeheartedly believe in the importance of giving recognition to programmers — it doesn’t seem to us like this kind of attitude gives a proper image of the development world. The implicit message here — coding is easy, and it’ll make you a billion dollars! — quietly pushes under the carpet all of the real and incredibly intensive work that developers have to do to conceive, design, strategize, and launch an app like Instagram. And I’m sure we don’t need to tell you that this success story isn’t too common.
We think it’s more important to recognize the work of programmers and developers — and to not play down the intensity of the work they do. Our developers, among others, are in the office long after most of New York has hopped on the subway home, and their skills keep us running. We could give you a hackneyed analogy — “that’s worth more than a billion dollars!” — but what we really want is just respect for the behind-the-scenes work that goes on in tech. It’s more than exciting enough without the billions.