#Instanovation: How Instagram killed our business


#Instanovation: How Instagram killed our business

The API announcement of Instagram on November 17 last year urged me to do something I never did before. In order to spread my message I started writing a script and produced a video.

Sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone and that’s exactly what I did.

My startup Qrtd is severely affected by the latest API change of Instagram which de facto bans all so-called feed reading apps. This is history repeating. Twitter used to do a similar thing in the past by shielding their API. The reaction of the developer community on the latest Instagram move was very lame. So here is my shot to raise awareness on the matter.

The #instanovation campaign I am launching has 2 objectives:

  1. It’s all about showing what we have accomplished as a startup. It’s about the philosophy of curated publishing and the range of cool products it has produced.
  2.  It’s a message to the Instagram team: Next to its advertising business model, Instagram could consider a curated publishing business model in order to allow the exploration of its massive and valuable image library.
So is it game over for Qrtd? I’d like to see it as we’ve just entered a new exciting level!
— Kristof Van Brussel

Please share the video, like the IGs and use the #instanovation hashtag if you too plan to make Instagram even better social medium!


Qrtd: @qrtd_apps

the Fashion Week Observer: @fashionweekobserver

personal: @astatement

Qrtd: @qrtd_apps

the Fashion Week Observer: @thefwobserver


Hi I'm Kristof Van Brussel, a product and interaction designer.
2 years ago I wanted to explore the possibilities of curating Instagram feeds so I founded Qrtd.

The making of Qrtd

Qrtd is a publshing service that allows people and brands to publish standalone curated Instagram content. Some people on Instagram just are too good and deserve an appreciative audience. These Instagrammers' vision and collection is so valuable that their Instagram feed reads like a book. 

Instagram is mostly about the moment; I wanted to emphasize the collections of these artists and brands. First, I started out with a more ZEN-like user experience for iPad and called my publications Qrtd look books. 

Artists and brands required true customization: They would like to combine multiple accounts or even pull in automated content by using hashtags.  So I introduced the Qrtd dash board where publishers can customize the content and design of their Look Book apps.

Brands now really got interested! They only needed to implement curation to unlock the nicest catalogs they often didn’t realize they already had. The best part: look books are automatically kept up to date.

All the Qrtd look books are available for free in the Appstore. You don't have to be on Instagram to download a look book! So brands can now extend their public beyond Instagram. No accounts or passwords required! Our Look Book is an easy download … How cool is that!

Users like the fun way to collect and share the images they love; watermarks maintain the attribution of the  Instagrams that are shared and saved. 

The Hairby look book from international hair stylist Pascal Van Loenhout is a true hit. He combined his personal and professional Instagram accounts and also used his hashtag to pick up the selfies from happy clients that visited one of his salons. As you can see look books have massive potential for marketing campaigns!

Let's talk magazines now! 

The Fashion week observer

[Eva Chen, this one is for you…]

I read an article in the Huffington post: "60 IG accounts to follow during fashion week spring 2015”. This revealed a basic problem millions of IG users face! — Searching for accounts to follow! OK, the Instagram app now gives suggestions but that doesn’t fix the problem. At special events, visitors seek a specific focus. That's how The Fashion Week Observer was born.
The FWO is the very first event based IG magazine. By using the Qrtd dashboard and by posting carefully picked hashtags that matched the FW schedules, I was able to serve the hottest frontrow Instagram fashion content! 

Lots of stylists and fashionista’s absolutely loved the possibilties but their main request was: we need this app on our iPhone 6 and 6+!!! So we started developing a universal user XP that covered both iPhone and iPad.The fashion industry really started to embrace us. A modeling agency and a major fashion industry player were all about to enroll great look book apps…

And then... Catastrophe struck.

17 November 2015: Instagram announces a new API and kills all feed-reading apps

Lookbook publishing and Qrtd are doomed. The new API and approval process no longer will allow creative applications using the wonderful public IG content. Cool apps like Macenzo, the FWO and Hairby will stop working in June 2016.

Advertising has become the major business model for Instagram. One of the main reasons for banning the so called "feed reading apps" is that they all are able to filter out the new Instagram ads. It would be such a shame that a true "publishing" business model is left out of the loop. Billions of wonderful Instagram images deserve to be curated so they can be discovered, rediscovered and presented outside the common Instagram app.

Message to Kevin Systrom and the Instagram team…

Instagram already is a new commercial visual language. For Art: IG already can be considered the Taschen of the 21th century! For fashion and trends: IG In many ways is the fashion glossy of the digital age!

But the current API decisions point in the direction that data mining the images will be reduced to tracking and estimating commerce and that's a shame.
Instagram is a lot more than that. The images, the people and businesses that made the social medium so special deserve better.
Curated feeds should and could become part of the Instagram universe.
That's why I'd love to share my Qrtd vision and expertise and partner with–not disappear from–Instagram!


The Essential Fashion Week app

The Essential Fashion Week app

New York Fashion Week kicks off the new Fashion Week season and there is good news: the Fashion Week Observer is available for iPhone NOW!

Slow motion is the new black

Slow motion is the new black

Instagram slow motion videos were hot during the fashion weeks. Find out why runway shows and slow motion videos are a match made in heaven.

The Fashion Week Observer curated 10 must-see Instagram slow motion videos Relive the fashion weeks in slowmo…enjoy!

The story of the Fashion Week Observer

The story of the Fashion Week Observer

The story of the Fashion Week Observer tells where Qrtd founder Kristof Van Brussel got the idea to publish a visual  news tool that covers the fashion weeks and turned it into a new exciting startup.




One of the unique curation features of the Qrtd look book solution is that you can combine multiple Instagram accounts into one branded look book. This solves a problem many worldwide brands are faced with. Global brands often have many local branches or sub labels, all resulting in an exponential growth of their Social Media accounts.





As a weathered product and UX designer ideation is my favorite pastime. 2 years ago, I was asked to come up with ideas for tourism. Of the many concepts I visualized one really stuck. I took it further, started pitching and even joined local accelerators and startup competitions. Soon I realized that in order to make it happen I had to start building. I also came to the conclusion that my profile didn't match the 18 year old college dropout every accelerator is after… in other words: I had to fund this stuff myself. 

I went back to the drawing board in order to simplify and broaden my initial idea. I had to reduce it to the essence and this is how Qrtd came along. From then on look book publishing was going to be my focus. I gave myself a micro budget, contacted a kick ass developer and in May 2013 we started developing.

The first results were amazing. My gut feeling was right (always trust your gut feeling!). I quickly had a tool with which I could set up Instagram curations and devour the very best Instagram content on iPad. It was a lot easier now to make my point and step up to people. I finally could discover the subtleties and finesses of the product I envisioned. How does my service compare to all other (social) media solutions? I got a reaction from a potential client that my product was a bit like Taschen. This comparison really made sense! It appealed to me.

Qrtd, coffee table book publishing!

And no, this is not a negative thing…on the contrary it is the future ; )

One of the key differences is that my solution de-socializes social media. Qrtd is a post-social product. We all know there is an awful lot of great data on social media and we all know that this data isn't used enough. But do we need to answer this by creating even more social networks that we need to join and follow? Social fatigue is the result. Following and checking your Facebook, Linked In, Pintrest, Instagram, Twitter accounts can become a full time job. Following by definition means you miss out on a lot of things… Following also means you need to plow through heaps of shit. Do we really want this?

Qrtd is a post-social product

Now let's bring in the curators on social media - and as I focus on Instagram - the curators of Instagram. Curators are people with vision and focus their content and visual language is hi-quality and to the point. If they could isolate their collection and serve it as a branded look book in tablet format, a new world would open to their public. Think Taschen: if there is an artist, a brand, fashion designer, photographer, musician you really, really love you would love to have a coffee table book on the subject. Now imagine that coffee table book was 100% free, always growing and up to date… then you have laid your hands on a Qrtd app! A lot of curators and brands already have valuable collections waiting there to be unlocked. Their public no longer needs to follow or join a network (and therefor miss out of a lot of good stuff). Just download the Qrtd look book and you do not have to miss out of a single thing.

Now this is just the beginning really, this is my proof of concept! Currently I am focusing on two things: 1/Building up a nice portfolio 2/Validating my service and together with my first and future customers explore the various possibilities and uses of the new look books medium.

So grab one of the Qrtd look books out there and enjoy!

To all the brands and curators out there… if I've inspired you let's get together and inspire the world!

Kristof Van Brussel | Qrtd