Lavingia was one of Pinterest’s first employees. He worked there from August 2010, when Pinterest had 5,000 users, until August 2011, when Pinterest was generating 1 billion monthly page views.
Today the site has more than 17 million monthly unique visitors.
Lavingia told us what it was like to work for Pinterest. He watched it rise from obscurity and turn into the fastest growing site of all time.
How did you find Pinterest before everyone else, and how did you get a job there?
When I moved to the U.S. I wanted to build a brand for myself, so I started blogging, tweeting, and using Hacker News. That got me attention from startups in the Valley, including Pinterest. Pinterest sent me an email in August 2010. At the time it was very small. I think it had less than 5,000 users.
I met up with the two founders to chat for a couple hours about what they were doing, what they wanted to accomplish and to hear their story. I left thinking, “Holy shit, I definitely want to get up here.”
My goal was to get a four year degree and then join an early phase startup and maybe found one of my own. That was a 7 year plan. Then I thought, “Wait a minute, I have the ability to skip three years of this process; I might as well do it.”
I wasn’t that dead-set on Pinterest and I had a few other offers. There were some Y Combinator companies I was considering and Flipboard. I picked Pinterest because it was the earliest company. My goal was to figure out if I could found a startup or not and I felt joining the earliest company was the best way to learn.
I stayed at Pinterest for one year and left in August, 2011.
You were there when Pinterest’s traffic was exploding. What was that like?
It was amazing. I joined Pinterest when we only had 5,000 users but we were growing something like 80 per cent month-over-month (don’t quote me on that, I’m not sure the exact metric). We had engaged users, and which would you rather have, 10,000 users who really love your site or 10 million users who never use it?
Before we raised $10 million from investors we were doing very significant amounts of traffic. If you looked at the numbers, it was clear if we just kept doing what we were doing we were going to be successful. The numbers got bigger and bigger. Going from 1 to 2 users doesn’t sound as cool as going from 1 million to 2 million.
What was your role at Pinterest?
I was the first designer and second engineer. I designed the iPhone app and did all the front-end stuff. The two founders Paul and Ben are both non-technical. Josh, the first engineer, did all of the coding so when I joined I did all of the front-end stuff. I worked on the API, all of the social sharing buttons on the site, the about pages, and all of the mobile stuff. As a typical early employee, I had to do everything.
For the complete interview with Lavingia, click here.
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