Instagram Surprises With Fifth Employee

Small-staffed photo startup hires an early adopter to evangelize

Instagram, the wildly popular photo-sharing startup known for its tiny staff and huge number of users, is adding one more member to its ranks. And in a surprise, it's not another engineer.

Jessica Zollman, who starts Aug. 8 and will become the fifth employee at a company that touts some 7 million users, tweeted the news Friday afternoon: “Excited to announce that I'm joining @instagram as their Community Evangelist!”

What exactly does a community evangelist do? Founder Kevin Systrom explained that Zollman will be helping current employee Josh Riedel manage and “nurture” all aspects of the company’s relationship with its rapidly growing fan base. “That's everything from community outreach to holding events, to writing on our blog, to helping people with their technical support issues, to helping write copy for future launches,” he said.

Zollman, an early Instagram fanatic, has been working in a similar customer service role at social Q&A service Formspring. But Zollman’s devotion to Instagram—she first chased down an invite to use the app during its beta stage—was a key factor in her hiring. “From the beginning she's been one of our most passionate users,” Systrom said. “We were having a conversation the other week about who we really needed to staff up on the community stuff. It was one person managing a community of 7 million people, so the first name that came to mind was hers, so we reached out and asked her if she wanted to be part of a team."

As for the company’s plans to grow further, it’s mainly looking to expand its technical staff. “Our hope is to hire many more folks going forward,” Systrom said. “Our focus is mainly on engineering. ”

In February, Instagram picked up $7 million in its second round of funding, capital it's using to fuel its growth as a platform. “If there's an image taken on a mobile phone, we want to be the thing that takes it,” Systrom said. As for monetizing the app, “it's not a priority as related to all the other things that we're trying to do, like scaling the product and scaling the team," he added. "But it's definitely top of mind for us going forward."

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