While perusing Pinterest before writing this article I found a quote that said, “Every experience prepares you for the next one. You just don’t know what the next one is going to be.” That’s very true, and it reminded me of the one person who could probably relate to it the best, and that person is Ben Silbermann, the founder of Pinterest himself.
Just a Small Town Son of Doctors
Ben Silbermann first began collecting things like rocks and stamps during his boyhood in Des Moines, Iowa. Little did he know that it would lead to his sharing a love of collecting with others online through the creation of Pinterest, which is more than just another website; it is a social network that truly appeals to the collector in all of us whether our collection is baseball cards, shot glasses, or just photos of family memories waiting to be scrapbooked.
After graduating from Yale, Silbermann did a brief stint at a Washington, D.C. consulting firm before applying to work for Google. Although they didn’t accept his early attempts, he cajoled his way into a job. It was there that he saw great people who were producing great things, and he aspired to be like them someday. But someday wasn’t soon enough, and Silbermann took matters into his own hands.
The Transition from iPhone Apps to Pinterest
Silbermann took some time off and then got together with a friend to create an iPhone app. Although that one didn’t take off, they tried again, and again, and again. How many iPhone apps does one need to create before hitting on a gem like Pinterest? The amount is a lot. During this time Silbermann did two very important things. First, he refused to give up. And secondly, he kept developing until he hit on an idea that had global appeal – collecting. Here are some of the benefits to keeping a collection:
- You can group unique things together. Imagine if you had a pin board for recipes, and you could post all your favorites for easy access. With two clicks of a mouse you could be looking at the copycat recipe of chocolate chip cookies from your favorite chain bakery, or someone’s grandma’s recipe for chicken and dumplings.
- You might find something valuable. Or at least you might find some valuable information, like money saving tips, guides to freebies, holiday craft ideas, and ideas for upcycling objects into something new. One of my wife’s favorite boards is one that tells how to turn old t-shirts into everything from handbags to yarn.
- You can share your passion with others. You don’t even have to know these other people. Pinners have grown in number from an initial scant few thousand to a whopping twelve million plus. You can link Pinterest to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and a lot of websites are including a “Pin-It” button that lets you pin without ever having to leave the webpage you’re currently visiting.
Why Ben Didn’t Give Up
Why didn’t Ben Silbermann give up after all those iPhone apps failed and it initially looked like Pinterest was just going to be another failed idea? He didn’t quit because, in his own words, “It would have been embarrassing.” More than twelve million users are glad he didn’t give up, my wife and I included. As Pinterest went through its various phases of transition between its initial concept and what it is now, Silbermann never really concerned himself with speed or how it rates against the other guys. He just cared about aesthetics.
Silbermann wanted to develop an app that’s as beautiful visually as it is in concept. Unlike other social networks, Pinterest seems to have found the secret to keeping people coming back for more. It’s rare that I see the same pin twice in any frequent time period. Silbermann never meant for Pinterest to be a way to procrastinate through several hours’ worth of time.
So what is the mission? As Silbermann says, “It’s to get them to go out and find those objects, find out where they can get that recipe to cook or go to that place where they can get that product.” Bloggers have started to pick up on this idea, and are blogging their Pinterest-inspired adventures, such as trying new hairstyles, recreating landscaping projects in their own backyards, and cooking tips such as placing a wooden spoon over a pot of boiling water so it won’t boil over when cooking pasta. With the release of versions of the app for smartphones and tablets, the social network can only get bigger from here.