Mark Zuckerberg first tried to recruit Instagram’s founder and chief executive, Kevin Systrom, to Facebook in 2004, before the social networking had charted its extraordinary growth trajectory and while Mr Systrom was still an undergraduate at Stanford University.
He turned the offer down, insisting he wanted first to complete his degree in Management Science and Engineering - a gamble which would many would have lived to regret but which, for Mr Systrom, has paid off handsomely.
According to leaked figures, the outgoing 28-year-old photography enthusiast owns a 40pc stake in the photo app business, handing him a windfall of $400m (£250m) for the company he started less than two years ago.
Although he turned down Facebook, Mr Systrom cut his teeth at some of the companies which have become the technology industry’s biggest names – interning at Odeo, which later became Twitter, and spending two years at Google working on early products like Gmail and Google Reader.
He continues to indulge his love of photography, as well as a passion for food and wine – chronicling long cooking sessions and recently dining with the chef Jamie Oliver. Announcing the deal on his Facebook page, he said his sudden riches would allow him to buy a few more bottles of one of his favourite things – champagne.
Mike Krieger is Instagram’s leading developer and the next biggest beneficiary of the Facebook deal after Mr Systrom. Although the pair never met at university, he is also a Stanford graduate, writing his thesis on the way computer interfaces can be used to get people to collaborate on a large scale.
That technical knowledge has helped Instagram to attract the 30m users that so impressed Facebook, and netted Mr Krieger around $100m for his reported 10pc stake in the company. Before joining the business with Mr Systrom, he was a software developer at Microsoft, working in its PowerPoint team, and then with the instant messaging network, Meebo.
The two men will be sharing their windfall with a few key investors with their own ties to Facebook, including the private equity firms Andreessen Horowitz and Benchmark Capital. Benchmark’s partner Matt Cohler led a $7m fundraising for Instagram last year, reportedly taking a stake of around 25pc and valuing the business at $25m. Cohler, who has a seat on Instagram’s board, was an early employee of Facebook and still serves as a “special advisor” to the social network.