Pinterest, which CEO Ben Silbermann describes as a tool that helps people find inspiration, is now the third-largest source of referral traffic on the Internet.
But growth wasn’t easy for the company, Silbermann told a rapt audience at Y Combinator’s Startup School at Stanford University on Saturday.
The way Pinterest grew had little to do with Silicon Valley wisdom. It was about marketing — mostly grassroots marketing — not better algorithms.
In 2010, three months after Pinterest launched, the site had only 3,000 users. But some of them were active users, and those people loved the site — and both of those categories included Silbermann himself.
“Instead of changing the product, I thought maybe I could just find people like me,” he said.
So Pinterest started to have meet-ups at local boutiques, and to take fun pictures of people who attended them, and to engage with bloggers to do invitation campaigns like “Pin It Forward,” where bloggers got more invites to the site by spreading the world.