Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom had a key role to fill in early 2016. He was seeking to revamp the photo-sharing service he’d co-founded with Mike Krieger six years earlier, and which Facebook had bought in 2012.
After keeping Instagram’s executive ranks intentionally small, Systrom was putting together a team to help him overhaul the site.
The objective was to get users—especially younger ones—to post more content on Instagram.
At the time, Snapchat was growing fast among youthful social media users, thanks to fun features like funny photo filters and disappearing videos.
Systrom had already poached some big names from Silicon Valley rivals, getting Ian Spalter from YouTube as head of design in early 2015 and hiring Yahoo’s James Everingham as head of engineering six months later.
Now he needed someone to get the features and tools being designed and built onto the site and into the hands of Instagram users.
As he searched for someone to help him implement his product roadmap, Systrom asked a friend, venture capitalist Elizabeth Weil, to arrange a dinner.
Weil, who’d spent four years as a partner at the marquee investment firm Andreessen Horowitz before becoming managing partner of a new firm, 137 Ventures, is married to Kevin Weil, whom she’d met when they were both students at Stanford University.
Kevin Weil had quit the university’s Ph.D. program in theoretical physics to start working at Twitter in 2009, when the social media service had just 40 employees.
After seven years at Twitter, he had worked his way up to executive vice president overseeing all of the company’s products, including its consumer-facing site, advertising products and the Vine and Periscope video tools.
Elizabeth Weil arranged the dinner.
During it, Systrom offered Kevin Weil a job running product for Instagram, according to an on-stage interview Weil gave in May to Stanford professor Tina Seelig, as part of the university’s discussion program for prospective entrepreneurs.
Weil says he turned Systrom down. He’d already resigned from Twitter, where user growth had begun to wane, and planned to take six months off to train for a 50-mile foot race that traveled the course of the American River in California’s Central Valley. What’s more, he and his wife had started a family.
Weil, who is 34, was enjoying time off and had just attended the Super Bowl, which was held that year in Santa Clara, California, according to his Twitter feed.