To create a pinboard is to say to the world, Here are the beautiful things that make me who I am—or who I want to be. Young women use Pinterest to plan their weddings, men collect watches and bikes into de facto gift registries, and couples assemble furniture sets for their new homes. Pictures of attractive men and women in various states of undress abound. The sum of each user’s choices is displayed in an ever-changing pastiche on each person’s home page. “When you open up Pinterest,” Silbermann says, distilling his vision, “you should feel like you’ve walked into a building full of stuff that only you are interested in. Everything should feel handpicked for you.” In other words, it’s a store in which every single product has been tailored to your needs, ambitions, and desires.
Meet Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann, the subject of Fast Company's October cover story.
For a guy running such a beautiful website, Ben Silbermann looks like hell: He has prominent bags under tired, watery eyes; his shoulders hang heavy; his shirt is wrinkled; and his dark hair is uncombed. When he speaks—with the open-vowel inflections of his Iowa upbringing—his voice is so slight that it often gets lost beneath the din of other conversations. When he moves, it is with the economy of a marathon runner trying to conserve every last bit of energy on the eve of a big race.
"I’m tired," says the 30-year-old CEO of Pinterest, the social scrapbook that’s the hottest website on the planet, as he prepares to shovel down a bowl of noodles a few feet away from his desk. Silbermann leaves for the office at 7 a.m. most mornings and works nonstop until dinner. His only respite, if you can call it that, comes in the predawn hours when he takes his newborn son, Max, into his arms and fires up his laptop to check email. Just a few weeks before Max was born in early July, Silbermann declared a companywide lockdown, ordering his 35 employees to come early and stay late in order to build new iPad and Android applications. The goal: to stoke growth. He ordered commemorative T-shirts with the phrase summer of apps printed across the chest, and he cut off almost all contact with anyone outside the company, including potential business partners.