Pinterested in PMF & Scale

by Jeanne Hwang

“You can always feel product/market fit when it’s happening.”

The Pinterest team must be overcome with sensation these days! There are all sorts of statistics flying around about Pinterests’ growth and user base: from 10.7M users of which 87% are women to 68% women to 3.3M users. Despite the discrepancies (maybe attributable to time of measurement), it certainly feels like Pinterest has reached PMF.

One of the key criteria, demand from early adopters, has certainly been met in the two years since founding. The growth trajectory and constant murmurs of ‘Pinterest Pinterest Pinterest’ in the hallways is clear validation.


The other criteria, solid profit potential, is still being tested but certainly there, once you consider how much brands have embraced it… and fans have embraced them. 250K users follow The Perfect Palette, 60K users follow Etsy; Barneys, Club Monaco, GE, Oreck, Mashable, JCPenny, Lilly Pulitzer, Chobani, and it seems hundreds of others, are all active on Pinterest. Their presence validates the hypothesis that brands view Pinterest as an important marketing channel. Thus, they are likely willing to pay for it (whether via ecommerce, data, sponsorships, etc), as they do for all other channels. To take it even further, I think companies may find significant value in using Pinterest even further upstream, in managing their product development and innovation process.


So, what’s next?Once we hit PMF, it’s time to scale.

Fred Wilson clearly stated his preference for scale and security over monetization in our Q&A session. Digging deeper into scaling, there are two immediate areas I would focus on:

Quality control

  • Quora initially gained so much traction because it was a forum for experts to connect with others on relevant topics. Once Quora was adopted by the masses, and ridiculous/irrelevant/hilarious questions started rolling in, Quora lost a lot of its appeal
  • Pinterest faces similar challenges managing the quality of its content. It’s a lifestyle site, with beautiful images, pretty products, and interesting quotes. If people (or companies) start pinning unappealing or irrelevant content (crappy office party photos? No thanks!), it could lose users to copycat sites.

Source: Pinterest.

--> The product should be smart enough to only surface “good” content. Currently, on the “everything” page, seemingly random photos are presented.  Pinterest can algorithmically choose to display only photos which have been liked or repined at least X number of times; corralling unattractive visuals to the pinboard of its distasteful users. Searching could still surface the photos, allowing discovery to still occur.

  • Pinterest’s value is not only in helping its users collect, but also in discovering new things. There is a lot of power and stickiness in delighting users by surfacing new things that they’ll love, to them. 
--> Pinterest has a lot of data on its users. Why not help curate content by displaying photos to users based on their pin history (pinistory?!) and activity with other users. For example, a user who have pinned multiple photos from the same sources may have similar tastes. Pinterest could created a “recommended pinners” or “recommended pins” page, not unlike Amazon’s recommendation engine or LinkedIn’s suggested connections. 
It’s possible, even likely, that Pinterst already has these built into their product, as they seem critical to the user experience.

But if not… I know a really good PM named Jeanne.


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