How Pinterest Changed My Life
I was thinking of titling this post “What it feels like to give up and still win” or something like that. Then I thought about some clever title about perseverance and how we saw value where no one else did, which would be true. But in the end it’s better to give credit where credit is due; so there you have it: How Pinterest Changed My Life.
My last company, Chick Approved, was just officially acquired by Seattle-based Lockerz, Inc…and it feels great! You can read all about it, but that’s just the inspiration for the post and really beside the point.
So what is the point?
The point is: I’m not sure we deserve it.
We built a great product, had 2 people on full time managing the community and our ambassador program, and I spent just about every weekend for the better part of a year working my ass off iterating and iterating on the product. So why don’t I deserve it? Some months before we were acquired I simply gave up.
We were working and working, growing and growing, and occasionally making some money. Our users loved the product, they loved Megan, they were active on our Facebook and Twitter. It was great! Except we couldn’t convince enough people (or the right people) that it was a good bet for a seed investment, and those servers start to get expensive when you’re growing. So, I gave up.
I was building a bookmarklet framework and discovering NodeJS. My co-founder, Brett, had an incredible idea for an iPad advertising framework (now an Adgent+Digital product), and there was a bunch of other really cool stuff we just had to work on. I thought, “Why spend our time on something that wasn’t yielding returns?”
Note: Looking back on the fundraising thing, I understand why we couldn’t raise: three 20-something guys with no fashion background building a fashion site for teenage girls, it was our first startup together – though all 3 of us had startups in the past, our competitive advantage was intangible, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah. I won’t make those mistakes again; there are so many more I still have to make
What does that have to do with Pinterest?
This is the perseverance/luck part of the post. I’d given up on Chick Approved, a few months later we took the site down completely, and I eventually regained the self-respect I lost throughout the ordeal. While we were shutting the site down, this random photo-sharing site called Pinterest came out of nowhere and started to explode. Obviously, we knew there was value in the 18-24 female market since that was more than 90% of the Chick Approved user base, but now the rest of the world saw the value too.
Interesting things happen when people start to see the value in opportunities. Call it human nature, herd mentality, mitigating risk, whatever – all of a sudden everyone started to see the potential. Since we’d seen it more than a year before, we were way ahead of the game. If you were marketing anything to that demographic, a Chick Approved user was seeing it or a Chick Approved ambassador was doing the promotion. That was our “intangible competitive advantage,” and what an advantage it turned out to be.
I’m not going to go into the whole story, but really, I feel like we just got lucky. I’d like to claim it was insight or market research or hell, a flash of brilliance, but if that were the case we would have created Pinterest, not piggybacked off their success. They created the demand for a market we’d been fostering. They showed the potential of sharing and collecting photos. Pinterest made Chick Approved valuable. They did all the things we did, but they did them better (except tagging clothing, we invented that ).
So that’s how Pinterest changed my life. I’d given up. Now, I’m sitting here typing a blog post having just accomplished what many only dream of: selling their company. All of a sudden I have more money in the bank than I’ve ever had before, people in the valley are paying attention to what we’re doing, and consequently, we’re setting up more meetings for Netmarks than we ever could have before. Life couldn’t be better. In the end, an acquisition is the same no matter how it comes about, but next time…I’m not giving up.
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