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No one in Silicon Valley understood Pinterest until it was already successful.

Stashed in: Overnight Success

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Great article from Liz about Chris Dixon interviewing Ben at SXSW.

Here are my three main takeaways:

1. No investor understood Pinterest for the first 18 months of its life.

Pinterest was hard for investors to understand at first (these days, they’d cut off a limb for equity) because it deviated from the trends of the moment. “When we first started, people were obsessed with this idea of real time, and everything was real-time text feeds,” Silbermann said.

Pinterest, on the other hand, isn’t about speed or dense information. “To me, [Pinterest's image-dominated] boards are a very human way of looking at the world,” Silbermann said. By contrast, “You never see a tweet older than 48 hours, unless it’s ironic. I wanted to create a service that’s a bit timeless.”

Pinterest’s big idea is “helping people discover things that they didn’t know they wanted,” Silbermann said, so beauty and simplicity are its highest product goals.

2. Few users understood Pinterest even 9 months after its launch.

Here’s another one. “Fail fast” is a common mantra in Silicon Valley. “If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released too late,” says start-up guru Reid Hoffman.

But Pinterest had “literally dozens” of versions of its signature grid layout “that were fully coded and fully styled with production data” before they were released.

Silbermann said, “The hard part about that idea of ‘minimum viable product,’ for me, is you don’t know what ‘minimum’ is, and you don’t know what ‘viable’ is.”

In the early days, Pinterest had “catastrophically small numbers,” Silbermann said. Nine months after launch, the site counted 10,000 users, with few of them active on a daily basis.

3. Pinterest spread by great word-of-mouth, not spammy viral techniques.

“Now, everyone that I grew up with in Iowa has Facebook; they often have an iPhone or Android phone; so, to me, it makes sense that people would find these services,” Silbermann said.

Once Pinterest did start growing — it had 16.1 million U.S. uniques in January, having doubled since November — it wasn’t because of celebrity users who brought in growth spurts, as with some other services like Twitter, but rather through networks of people like design bloggers, Silbermann said.

I also really appreciate that Liz describes Ben as "incredibly humble, thoughtful and nice."

In other words, the product is a good reflection of the founders.

Mashable says Pinterest will soon add APIs and an iPad app.

As well as release gorgeous profiles:

“We wanted to make it more beautiful … to make your profile different in kind than the profile you have on Facebook.”

I, for one, welcome our new Pinteresty overlords.

Pinterest was an overnight success four years in the making:

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