Photo: Startup School
Ben Silbermann is the CEO and cofounder of Pinterest.Pinterest is now the third-largest source of traffic to other websites, thanks to the rabid passion of its users for “pinning” interesting images and links.
Unlike Instagram, which gathered 25,000 users on its very first day, Pinterest’s early growth wasn’t that impressive.
In March 2010, four months after his company launched a product called Pinterest, Silbermann sent the following email to his early investors. He read it out loud to a room full of engineers and founders at Y Combinator’s Startup School last weekend:
I wanted to provide a quick update from Cold Brew Labs. Just to review, we’ve launched a site called Pinterest. It’s a tool that helps people share and discover the things they love.
People join Pinterest to create these collections through pinboards, and to follow collections created by their friends.
We’re happy to say that we’re making good progress. To date we have almost 3,000 registered users and our daily pin count is steadily increasing.
I’m also happy to say that we’ve made big, operational improvements. We’re relocating our offices to a new building, just few blocks away. The price will decrease as we’re sharing it with another Y Combinator startup, Chart.io, and we’ve also gotten some free Amazon hosting credits.
“If you think about it, four months in, 3,000 accounts for a consumer startup is really not very good,” Silbermann told the group.
“And I think the thing that surprised me the most in starting a company, after reading about, ‘Facebook hits Harvard and gets 95% penetration in two weeks,’ and ‘Instagram gets to 1,000,000 people,’ is that it can take a really, really long time to build things that are worthwhile.”
Silbermann adds that, while hitting 3,000 accounts in four months doesn’t sound very impressive, it actually took Pinterest even longer than that to get that number.
“So March 2010 we launched Pinterest,” Silbermann said. “We’re at 3,000 accounts. And that wouldn’t be so bad if we hadn’t started building Pinterest actually in November 2009. And that alone wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t left my job to start a company in May 2008.”
In May, Pinterest raised $100 million in a deal that valued the company at $1.5 billion—which means its early investors have made a huge gain on paper.
The bottom line: building great things doesn’t always happen over night, and some great things are worth waiting for.
Watch Silbermann read his email and give startup advice, below: