have a safe and lucrative job you are thinking of quitting to start your own thing? Though it may seem nuts to do so, that is exactly what Bill Silbermann,CEO and creator of Pinterest did. He launched this visual sharing service in 2010 and it has exploded since then. It is estimated to be worth $12 billion currently with over 200 million users logging in at least once a month.
It is assumed by people who do not use the platform that Pinterest is like Twitter or Facebook. Meaning it is a social media service for people to share what friends and loved ones are doing. This is not the case.
Pinterest has transformed into much more than a place people find ideas for their life. This gives brands the opportunity for brands to place themselves into the process rather than in an intrusive way like a Facebook wall. The different approach employed is proven successful, with the company making almost half a billion dollars last year.
So how did Silberman become the private holder of one of the most successful social media channels? Here are some lessons we can learn from his life story over the years.
Completely commit to the unknown because passion is paramount
Silberman initially wanted to be a doctor before he went to college. Before pursuing a degree in political science, studied at MIT’s Research Science Institute. Google hired him to produce online advertising after graduation.
While designing a iPhone apps at Google with his friend Paul Sciarra, his mind went back to when he was a child. As a child he loved collecting, categorising and organising things. Using that as an inspiration, the two partnered with Evan Sharp to produce the online pinboard.
His girlfriend now wife encouraged him to go all out. So to devote himself to building the startup, he quit his job at Google. He does admit that to give up on Google’s resources was nerve-racking. Also, the thought of predictable income for the future which was unknown run through his mind.
Initially, Silbermann and Sciarra raised funds for Tote, which was meant to be a shopping app. However it never took off. Whilst developing the app, Silbermann noticed that people saved items they wanted to purchase for later. Thus connecting that idea to his passion for collecting, Pinterest was born.
Even if you are the boss, keep learning
As a boss or CEO, you have to read continually to stay on track and keep up with trends. He has incorporated it into his busy schedule to read books every weekend. Some books he reads are on topics relating to business, technology or marketing. He uses the information to offer added value.
He also recommends that you learn from your mistakes as well. Tote app was a failure but that failure proved to be a blessing in disguise. The creation of that app led to the germination of a successful idea.
Read about other successful entrepreneurs and you will realise they are the ones who refused to give up when people told them no. Instead, they listen patiently and sift through situations to find the knowledge to create more positive outcome in the future.
So if you are in a struggling business, take a breather and analyse the biggest lessons you can learn from it.
Surround yourself with talent even if you do not know their role yet
When Pinterest started, you had to be invited to use the service. The first users of the site were design bloggers Silbermann recruited. From there, he advised these invitees to only extend admission to people with unique ideas and creative minds. The exclusive community grew slowly until the invitation requirement was removed in 2012.
The company hired people according to their strengths during the early days of Pinterest explosive growth. The company hired these people without having an immediate role for them. Those key hires proved to be the pillars the company needed. With the innovate thinking of the company, these talents found solutions to ‘unsolvable’ problems repeatedly.
Even when metrics don’t agree, prioritize customer experience
Whereas some site focus solely on page views and other metrics, Pinterest seeks to enhance user experience. It is true that the number of clicks or time spent on page provide some insight. However, it does not always give an accurate measure of user engagement.
Pinterest is one of the earliest websites to adopt the infinite scrolling feature. This gives users thousands of ideas without navigating to a different page. He concentrated more on what could cause people to love the experience he offered rather than clicks and ad loads.
One thing Silbermann recognises is that users want is constantly changing. This year, users were pinning tattoo images, woodworking ideas and classic car photos. This subjects were not popular a year ago. To further enhance user experience, the site incorporates AI so people are served up more of what they like. That is after expressing so in their preferences.
Time to apply these lessons from Pinterest
With the talk of IPO coming in the coming years, it is looks like Silbermann’s success will continue into the future. The many lessons he has shared are timeless. Therefore applying them to any career or company may yield success.
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