Instagram’s Kevin Systrom On International Expansion, Instagram Video, Funding Rumors And More

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With over 100K weekly downloads coming in just from China, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom had a lot to say during his TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing talk, tackling head-on the issue of how to approach social in China’s unique market as well as what exactly to do about the multitudes of clones.

We chatted with Systrom after his talk backstage, and found out a little bit more about where the company sees themselves in the future. Instagram is currently focused on Asia, with its second biggest market being Japan. And Systrom isn’t afraid of the clones, “There might be 10 clones here, [but] there are also 20 clones from the United States right? You know, being copied is something that I think that every successful company will go through. Our biggest defensible asset really is our community, and I think that’s the thing that you’re not going to find on any of these replicas.”

The hardest part about adjusting to China for most Internet companies is that social networks like Facebook and Twitter are censored, leaving apps like the social-heavy Instagram to reckon with Chinese equivalents Weibo and Renren. “It’s a matter of resources and time,” Systrom said, “And I think that we’re really excited, actually, in the near future to add support for a bunch of Japanese social networks, Chinese social networks, Korean social networks. Because it’s really clear that the top five social networks that we list today in the app aren’t necessarily the top five in other countries.”

When asked if accumulating these resources involved Instagram raising another round of funding (as currently rumored across the Valley), Systrom said that the six-person company was focused on “staying as lean as possible.” “It’s not really a priority right now to raise more money,” he told me, “When I think the company starts scaling both on the people front and even more the network front then I think there will be an opportunity to raise more money for the company, but it really doesn’t make sense right now.”

Systrom also hinted that Instagram Video was (somewhere) on the horizon, “Video makes sense to do. I will say it’s a very interesting area. We really want to go after something bigger than filtered photos. Our job and our vision is to allow you to tell the story of your life, and whatever tools that may be for video, we’ll end up making them. I’m not sure if that includes filters for video or not, but we’ll definitely consider it.”

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