‘I would get calls at all times of the night’: In Pinterest’s early days, the CEO put his cell number on every email his company sent

Pinterest cofounder and CEO Ben Silbermann. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
  • Pinterest reaches 250 million users every day and is reported to exceed $US700 million in annual ad revenue, making the photo-sharing site worth $US12 billion.
  • In the early days of Pinterest, cofounder and CEO Ben Silbermann included his personal number in an email signature so users could reach him if they had issues with the site.
  • Many users called Silbermann with questions outside of the site, like computer issues, but he doesn’t regret making himself available – it was about building a Pinterest community.

When image-sharing site Pinterest was launched in 2010, cofounder and CEO Ben Silbermann put his personal phone number on every company email to make sure early users could always reach him in case the site went down.

“I remember I used to put my mobile phone number on every outbound email. Because I wanted to make sure that if Pinterest wasn’t working, you had somebody to call. And so I would get calls at all times of the night, all through the day,” Silbermann said on an episode of Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success.”

With 250 million active users today, Pinterest is reported to exceed $US700 million in annual ad revenue and is valued at $US12 billion, according to the New York Times.

In its early phase, Silbermann wanted to cater a product around consumers and was extremely focused on making Pinterest’s user experience as easy and enjoyable as it could be. Silbermann said he built a team around Pinterest that could execute just that.

“Because the thing that kept us working really hard was we really wanted to make the folks that were using the product have an amazing experience,” he said.

To ensure users had a positive experience on the site, Silbermann added his mobile phone number to all outbound company emails. But users wouldn’t exclusively call Silbermann for Pinterest questions, they were looking for various types of tech support.

“Every user had my mobile phone number. And you’d get calls from people that just wanted general technology support, like not even to do with Pinterest. They’re like, ‘My computer’s really slow,'” he said.

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Over time Silbermann had to remove his personal number from his email signature because his phone constantly rang. But Silbermann doesn’t regret making himself unequivocally available for early Pinterest users. He said he was building a community around Pinterest for active users and employees.

“So eventually I had to get rid of that mobile phone number because it was going off all the time.” Silbermann said. “But it was more the ethos that every early user would feel like they were part of a special community, and we were really dedicated to giving them a great experience.”

Listen to the full episode and subscribe to “This Is Success” on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.