How do you go from collecting dried insects to creating a social network valued at $14.25 billion? Ben Silberman's story took several twists and turns to create Pinterest, the image social network that makes our lives more aesthetically pleasing.
This is the story of Pinterest.
Ben was born in Des Moines, Iowa's capital city, and as a kid he had two main hobbies.
On the one hand, he was always a technology enthusiast.
On the other, he loved to collect things. From stickers to dried insects. The usual...
When he turned 17, Ben decided to study political science at Yale, where he graduated in 2003.
Just three years after graduation, he achieved what many of us have dreamed of: He started working at Google. This would be a before and after in his life.
Back then Google wasn't what it is today. Still, Ben would learn a lot about business, web design and marketing. But in addition to gaining knowledge, he would meet some very important people in his life: In 2006 he met Paul Sciarra.
They didn't know it, but they would become great partners and friends.
In 2009 Ben and Paul resign from Google and decide to partner to create their own company: Cold Brew Labs, a software factory that designed websites and mobile applications.
Their first creation was TOTE, an online shopping app that allowed you to browse 30 different stores, save your favorite products and receive alerts when prices dropped.
The app failed and was forgotten. However, Ben had his first BIG learning experience:
Entrepreneurship is harder than it looks.
Well, actually he had two BIG learnings.
The second was about user behavior: The few people who had used the app, not only bought, but saved the photos of what they wanted to buy to "come back to them later."
From this second apprenticeship, they came up with the idea of creating a website to collect things. Images, illustrations, whatever.
However, the trend of social networks at that time, were text posts as you used to see on twitter or facebook.
Instagram did not yet exist.
In October 2009 Evan Sharp (Architect) joins Ben and Paul and completes the founding team. The funny thing is that none of the three were programmers.
In December 2009 Pinterest (Pin + Interest) and in March 2010, after designing more than 50 different prototypes, they finally launched a beta version, closed, to which you could only access by invitation via email.
Why did they do this?
The guys knew that Pinterest's identity was going to be formed based on the first people to enter the network.
That meant only one thing: The content for the first few months of the platform had to be of high quality.
The story goes that Ben personally wrote to the first 5,000 users of the platform to engage and convince them to stay on Pinterest.
At the time, most of Pinterest's content creators were blog designers and people in the art scene. Ben would contact them one by one and talk to them. In the end, they were the Pinterest users at the time.
Ben knew that you should always talk to your users.
In March 2011 Pinterest launched the iOS app and, six months later, the mobile version.
People were using Pinterest to get inspiration and search for images of all kinds, such as landscapes, interiors, wardrobe, food, etc. While you could follow profiles and accounts just like other social networks, there was a slight difference. On Pinterest, people didn't follow other people for who they were, but for the content they uploaded.
Due to the accelerated growth, the team had to move to their first offices in California.
In March 2012 Pinterest is named the 3rd largest social network in the United States, behind Facebook and Twitter.
Two months later Rakuten invests $100 million USD, leaving the company's valuation at $1.5B.
That same year they remove the invitation-only limitation. From then on, it was all about growth.
In August 2012 they launched the app for Android and, by July 2013, they would reach the milestone of 70 million registered users worldwide.
In 2015 they added the buy button within the app. Companies begin to use Pinterest as a new sales channel and no longer just as a "showcase" to showcase their products.
In 2018, Pinterest reaches the incredible number of 200 million active users per month.
In September 2020 they break the record of downloads in one day: +800 thousand downloads between Appstore and Playstore.
As of today Pinterest has more than 450 million active users and has reached a market valuation of about 14.25 billion dollars.