Pinterest CEO Silbermann Defends Site’s User Base, Promises Improvements to Mobile Apps


Pinterest’s user base skews female and Midwestern, which would make co-founder and CEO Ben Silbermann the class loser to the Silicon Valley set if he weren’t so darned successful.

If you hear one thing about Pinterest, you hear that there are more women on it than on sites like Reddit, Alexis Madrical began his interview of co-founder and CEO Ben Silbermann at a tech conference in San Francisco today.

Is that something innate about the site, or was it something about the seed group of users being balanced in different way?

Several women in the audience laughed, but Madrigal didn’t seem to get it. He got his next question from a Reddit user.

Is it me, or is Pinterest just Reddit for women?

Silbermann recruited an atypical set of early adopters for Pinterest, and they’ve helped push the site to more unique visitors than Tumblr. But Silicon Valley still evidently can’t comprehend the site’s success.

Among the early adopters, users with particular interests found “huge utility” in Pinterest, and those interests — including cooking, which Silbermann said he enjoys — skewed female. As users shared the site by invitation in its private beta, they tended also to share it with women, Silbermann explained.

But it wasn’t just women, it was Midwestern women
, Madrigal pushed. Did you send emails to all the women you know in the Midwest?

“I’m from the Midwest — I’m from Des Moines — so I did send out invites at least to all the women I knew in Des Moines, was probably 20 to 25,” Silbermann joked.

Increasingly, startups are departing from the 1990s pattern of drawing a following first among young, male techies in Silicon Valley before spreading out to other user groups, Silbermann said.

“Pretty much everybody has access to fast devices,” he explained.

But about those devices: Pinterest’s mobile apps have yet to really crack the mobile experience, Silbermann acknowledged.

“We’re definitely in phase one. We basically poured Pinterest into new the form factor [of the smaller screen], but what we haven’t done yet is take advantage of the context of those devices, which is that it’s in your pocket when you’re on the go,” he said.

Pinterest’s CEO repeatedly described the service as something that allows people to explore their aspirations for the future, unlike other services which focus on “real time.”

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