Coming from a family of doctors, Ben Silbermann was on track to become one himself at Yale, until he realised it wasn't his calling. Silbermann would then go on to work in financial consulting at CEB and later in customer support at Google over the next 5 years, before finally quitting his job at Google to startup with his college-mate Paul Sciarra. Together, Silbermann and Sciarra built Tote - an app for online shopping.
After it flopped, they decided to pivot to Pinterest, a platform for 'collecting things' - something that Ben Silbermann had held a passion for since childhood. The app was to provide a platform to showcase photo collections. Soon after, Silbermann met Evan Sharp, a talented architect and thus their team grew to 3. "It was like he was the only who understands what [I] was saying", Silbermann said of the time when he met his third co-founder. Sharp created the iconic 'Grid' layout that has become synonymous with the app ever since.
The Long Road
Growth began slowly, and Ben Silbermann personally wrote to the first 5,000 users. After 9 months, they still had less than 10,000 users - but slow and steady growth, and belief in their product kept them going. They focused on the small group of fanatical users they had accumulated, and built around them - also gaining popularity for their 'fan meetups'. "That was the moment where I was like, 'We've got it.'" Silbermann says, after the first meetup. Eventually, Pinterest got some traction and that's when the tech blogs started paying attention. Their iPhone app, launched in 2011, did surprisingly well, and got more downloads than anticipated. They've gone from strength to strength ever since.