When Ashton Kutcher met Instagram founder Kevin Systrom in 2011, he wasn’t immediately impressed with him — until Systrom saved his life.
According to the new book “No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram” by Sarah Frier, Kutcher was introduced to Systrom around the time Instagram had 10 million users. Kutcher had started investing in startups like Spotify, Airbnb, and Path, a competitor to Instagram.
Kutcher and his investing partner, Guy Oseary, were interested in Instagram, but had a difficult time securing a meeting with Systrom. When the meeting finally came about, Kutcher pushed Systrom to consider adding a “re-gram” feature — essentially, letting users repost images other people had taken, similar to Twitter’s retweet feature. Systrom said no.
Frier reports that while Kutcher was “put off” that Systrom wouldn’t take his advice, he still decided to invite him to a ski weekend in Utah with a group of other founders, including investor Joshua Kushner.
But around 4 a.m., Systrom barged into Kutcher’s room, alerting him that the wall next to the living room fireplace was on fire, and that Kutcher and all the other guests needed to immediately get out of the house, which was filling with smoke.
Kutcher told Frier that the experience made him realize that Systrom was a good leader, and the two became friends. Kutcher eventually helped Instagram get celebrities on board, introducing Systrom to actors and musicians who would go on to gain millions of followers on the platform.
Over the years, Kutcher has become one of the most active tech investors in Hollywood, reportedly putting more than $3 billion into startups and participating in more than 170 funding rounds.
Instagram went on to be acquired by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012, and Systrom, along with Instagram cofounder Mike Krieger, stayed on until 2018, when they both left the company after reportedly experiencing tensions with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.