Despite what you may have read, Pinterest wasn’t created a few months ago; it has been a long slow road of pins and people since 2009. How much market research went into coming up with the concept? How about none. In this session, co-founder and CEO Ben explains how Pinterest was just something he really wanted to see built.
How it came about
Taking a cue from the simplicity and success of Twitter, Ben decided to concentrate on just three things people, boards and pins. They went the venture capital route in order to delay discussion on monetisation. Making money was not the focus, and is still not the focus. Yet.
Labouring over the design stage, they had 12 fully coded versions before deciding on the final. If your collections didn’t look awesome, why would people spend time to build them? he says.
“The average consumer has really high expectations. If you don’t give them something that is worth their time, then they shouldn’t give you their time. They can watch TV or play Angry Birds.”
Pinterest has also put boards back on the map. While they had been very unpopular within the tech community, Pinterest persisted as Ben explains – “Boards are a very human way of looking at the world. I’ve always loved folders; they are a way to make sense of chaos.”
Then, why did it take so long to take off?
Ben doesn’t have an engineering or tech background, and I don’t think Pinterest would have been created if he had. Pinterest is unusual in that it wasn’t embraced by the tech community. Silicon Valley didn’t understand it, didn’t see a need for it. There was also no celebrity to join that made it go from 0 to 60, ala Ashton Kutcher with Twitter.
“I’m glad I didn’t read the proxy book on when to give up because it took a long time to get going. People ask me why I didn’t, and I think I just didn’t want to tell people that we blew it.”
It was just the everyday people that made it popular. And Ben made sure that these people were happy.
“I personally wrote to the first 5,000 users. I gave them my cell phone, and would meet them in person. People say that’s a lot of commitment, but I was just really happy people were using it and wanted to know what they thought.”
How did he know people would like it?
Ben was very much on the ground in developing Pinterest. He would peruse newsagencies and the amount of lifestyle magazines indicated that there is a great interest area and market for it.
“I loved the idea that you could take an offline activity and create an online service that could aid that.”
What is the actual purpose of Pinterest?
“The mission of Pinterest isn’t to keep them on the site, it’s to drive them out to get what they want, go to the places they want to go, cook the recipes they want to try. With or without Pinterest people have hobbies and interests, what we want to do is make sharing and collecting these easier. Helping people to discover things they didn’t know they wanted, he said.
“I also wanted to create a service that was timeless. If something’s your favourite book now, it’s going to be your favourite book in five years.
How has Pinterest been embraced that he didn’t expect?
“First to come to mind satire boards. A Fake Mit Romney account has already been created, with his suggestions on what yacht to buy, and how to take a San Pellegrino bath. You can find it here http://pinterest.com/fakemittromney/
“Museums have also started joining to showcase upcoming collections, and travel boards were also a surprise, as people created spaces to document their desired destinations.”
For SxSW I was particularly impressed with advertising agency GSD&M (who also created the Don’t Mess with Texas campaign) board with their Pinterest Guide to Austin http://pinterest.com/gsdm/, which is where is where I discovered Austin has a Pop Culture museum. I am in heaven.
What’s coming up for Pinterest?
Pinterest has reached the tipping point of mainstream success, and now the race is on to make sure Pinterest is the one and only pinning service worldwide. But Ben is not concerned about racing the clones: “We just want to make sure that what we release is of really high quality.”
Look for an all new profile design expected to be launched this week. We wanted to make it more beautiful, he said.
The team of 20, which was 10 people until a few months ago, wants it to be very different to your Facebook and Twitter profile – a snapshot of what you’re about.
You will also be able to see who people pin from and who is influencing others.
And something I am really looking forward to, they are expanding to include video. Sometimes you just need all your YouTube cat videos in one place, you know?
They are also working on platform expansion, with an iPad version, and planning to open up API, but no set date as yet.
I want Pinterest to feel like a human service.
He also values his workers; he is not looking to be the next figurehead of a company, the next Steve Jobs. The team is the most exciting product that we’re building.
Above all, Ben wants to celebrate people’s interests. Preferably on Pinterest.