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How Pinterest plans to spend its new millions and why it only hires nice employees


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Cool to see their story evolving as time goes on. Sounds like they're pitching it more as a visual search engine rather than a giant catalog.

It's REALLY hard to search Pinterest on mobile right now.

And 80% of Pinterest traffic is on mobile.

You recently announced that there are a whopping 50 billion Pins in the system. What’s the goal, growth-wise, there?

I don’t know if we have a number that is the goal. Numbers are easy to talk about externally so we use them, but it’s not actually about the quantity. But for us, it’s really about ‘Do we have all the most interesting stuff well-represented on Pinterest?’

If you’re a user who is looking for something, do we have an idea that’s relevant to you? Do we have enough stuff that we can help you discover something interesting? For us, it’s less about thinking about how to make that number higher and more about, how do we take those 50 billion things and show you the right five or ten or twenty for what you’re doing. And that’s a really hard problem.

One question is how we make Pinterest feel very regionally focused. Our biggest company focus this year is international growth. When you’re in Japan and you’re looking for something to cook for dinner, how do we make sure you’re seeing a Japanese recipe?

Another focus is how we take those 50 billion Pins — or however many we have at the end of the year — and make them more useful and more actionable? If you come across anything — clothing, a place to travel — how do we help you understand what you’re looking at — how you can get that piece of clothing, how you can get to that place? And that’s more about the information and the metadata that we have about the pins themselves.

Their plan to make Pinterest more searchable is localization. And making pins actionable. 

What do you wish people better understood about Pinterest?

I don’t think people realize the breadth of it and how useful it is for so many things. Even I don’t sometimes.

I just got a dog, and I never thought about using it to look up toys you get for the dog and walks to take the dog on, but there’s so much stuff about that on Pinterest!

Pinterest really is a portal. We’re an effective search engine for a lot of things in people’s lives, and I’m not sure that we’re top-of-mind in that way yet. You wouldn’t ask Pinterest how far it is from New York to San Francisco, but you would definitely ask it, ‘What should I do in San Francisco?’ or ‘What kind of sofa do I want in my apartment,?’ or ‘What kind of clothes do I want to wear?’ These very subjective questions that have no right answer, that I think a visual, object-focused service can help you answer really well.

Pinterest is good when you're not looking for a specific thing but you want to browse around some topic that is well suited to images. 

Pinterest is not about sharing with your friends. It’s about saving ideas for your future.

I do think, obviously, you can get inspired about things you want to do by looking at what other people do. People are at the core of Pinterest, but it’s just not about sharing. For me, a lot of the people who inspire me are people I know. Like, my friend Everett re-does scooters and motorcycles — and that’s really inspiring I never thought about doing that before I saw his Pin Boards. And my friend Shaw is an architect in New York so I can keep a pulse on what he’s doing, because he’s way more cutting edge than I am.

But I don’t think of those interactions as social interactions. I’m more interested in the fact that they’re experts in a taste I admire then that they’re people I’m friends with.

Pinterest recently held an event called “Knitcon” where employees taught each other classes about things like song writing, photo editing, fixing a flat bike tire, and more. Why is that sort of thing important to Pinterest’s culture?

Our core company value is actually the word 'knit,' which is kind of a funny word. That’s the word we use to describe different types of people learning to see each other’s point of view and work on a problem together. And that’s just how creative things get built right?

We want the different disciplines and functions to be learning each other’s languages. Engineering and design work very closely. I think that there are a lot of companies in the valley that call themselves an ’engineering company,’ or a ‘marketing company,’ — they’re very focused on a specific part of a business.

We’re more interested in forming a business where there is no Alpha dog team within the company.

There’s one more thing… We try to hire people who are nice. Which is kind of obvious in some ways, but there’s definitely a stereotype of a successful startup that it’s often this aggressive, type A place. And that’s just not necessarily true.

You can have geniuses that are nice or geniuses that are really egotistical. But they’re both geniuses. So, we really want to work with the geniuses that are nice to each other and have a common level of respect. Because those are the people who can knit together and build great innovative products.

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