Meet Ben Silbermann, CEO and cofounder of Pinterest who's one of the richest millennials and self-made billionaires in the world

Ben Silbermann

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Ben Silbermann is worth $1.5 billion at just 37 years old.

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Ben Silbermann is a 37-year-old, self-made billionaire.

Ben Silbermann is a 37-year-old, self-made billionaire.

Source: Forbes

He currently has a net worth of $1.5 billion, according to Forbes.

He currently has a net worth of $1.5 billion, according to Forbes.

Source: Forbes

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Silbermann cofounded Pinterest — the online, interactive, inspiration board — in 2010 with Evan Sharp and Paul Sciarra.

Silbermann cofounded Pinterest — the online, interactive, inspiration board — in 2010 with Evan Sharp and Paul Sciarra.

Source: Forbes

Before founding the photo-, recipe-, home decor-, inspiration-collecting site, Silbermann was a collector himself — even from an early age he collected things like stamps and insects.

Before founding the photo-, recipe-, home decor-, inspiration-collecting site, Silbermann was a collector himself — even from an early age he collected things like stamps and insects.

Source: Inc, Business Insider

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"What you collect says so much about who you are," he said during an on-stage interview with Chris Dixon — then-cofounder and CEO of startup Hunch — in 2012.

"What you collect says so much about who you are," he said during an on-stage interview with Chris Dixon — then-cofounder and CEO of startup Hunch — in 2012.

Source: Business Insider, Crunchbase

Silbermann was born in July 1982 to a family of doctors in Iowa — he didn't have a legacy of engineering or product development. His parents Dr. Jane Wang and Dr. Neil Silbermann operated an ophthalmology practice just north of De Moines, Iowa, for 37 years.

Silbermann was born in July 1982 to a family of doctors in Iowa — he didn't have a legacy of engineering or product development. His parents Dr. Jane Wang and Dr. Neil Silbermann operated an ophthalmology practice just north of De Moines, Iowa, for 37 years.

Source: Yellow Pages, Business Insider, Inc

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He got his undergraduate degree from Yale University where he started out studying medicine and then switched to political science.

He got his undergraduate degree from Yale University where he started out studying medicine and then switched to political science.

Source: Business Insider, Inc, Money Inc.

From Yale, he went on to get a job as a consultant in Washington, D.C.

From Yale, he went on to get a job as a consultant in Washington, D.C.

Source: Business Insider

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He told Dixon that while he was in D.C., he spent a lot of time reading tech blogs. "I thought, 'What a funny name for a blog — Tech CRUNCH,'" he said. "I would read about things like Digg and Kevin Rose."

He told Dixon that while he was in D.C., he spent a lot of time reading tech blogs. "I thought, 'What a funny name for a blog — Tech CRUNCH,'" he said. "I would read about things like Digg and Kevin Rose."

Source: Business Insider

After reading about Silicon Valley from afar, Silberman got a job working at Google. He was brought on to design products for the site, including display ads, and said the company "barely hired" him, considering his lack of experience in the area.

After reading about Silicon Valley from afar, Silberman got a job working at Google. He was brought on to design products for the site, including display ads, and said the company "barely hired" him, considering his lack of experience in the area.

Source: Business Insider

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"I thought Google was the coolest place," Silbermann told Dixon. He said everyone working there was "so smart" and working on really interesting things. "I just felt really lucky to be a part of it," he said.

"I thought Google was the coolest place," Silbermann told Dixon. He said everyone working there was "so smart" and working on really interesting things. "I just felt really lucky to be a part of it," he said.

Source: Business Insider

Silberman said Google was doing things nobody else was even thinking of — like taking pictures of streets and making Google Street View.

Silberman said Google was doing things nobody else was even thinking of — like taking pictures of streets and making Google Street View.

Source: Business Insider

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He said that, while working at the tech giant, he was surrounded by people who were thinking really big, which made him do the same.

He said that, while working at the tech giant, he was surrounded by people who were thinking really big, which made him do the same.

Source: Business Insider

Silbermann's head was filled with ideas while at Google, he said, but his job description kept him from building things and experimenting.

Silbermann's head was filled with ideas while at Google, he said, but his job description kept him from building things and experimenting.

Source: Business Insider

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He left his job at Google to follow his colleagues' leads and think big — really big. But, he didn't land on Pinterest right away. He spent time developing iPhone apps that flopped and products that not too many people really interacted with.

He left his job at Google to follow his colleagues' leads and think big — really big. But, he didn't land on Pinterest right away. He spent time developing iPhone apps that flopped and products that not too many people really interacted with.

Source: Business Insider

At the time, Silbermann was collaborating with Paul Sciarra, his friend from Yale, and the pair tried out loads of different product ideas.

At the time, Silbermann was collaborating with Paul Sciarra, his friend from Yale, and the pair tried out loads of different product ideas.

Source: Business Insider

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Before Pinterest, they came up with Tote — a shopping app.

Before Pinterest, they came up with Tote — a shopping app.

Source: Fast Company, Fast Company

The biggest issue with Tote was that people weren't using it to shop — rather, they were using it to find things they liked and then they would send themselves pictures so they could shop later.

The biggest issue with Tote was that people weren't using it to shop — rather, they were using it to find things they liked and then they would send themselves pictures so they could shop later.

Source: Fast Company, Fast Company

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The app has since shut down, but the way people were using it gave Silbermann the idea for Pinterest — a platform basically designed to save things for later.

The app has since shut down, but the way people were using it gave Silbermann the idea for Pinterest — a platform basically designed to save things for later.

Source: Fast Company

Silberman told Dixon that nine months after launch, Pinterest had only generated some 10,000 users, many of whom weren't visiting the site on a daily basis.

Silberman told Dixon that nine months after launch, Pinterest had only generated some 10,000 users, many of whom weren't visiting the site on a daily basis.

Source: Business Insider

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He and his team kept at it, though. He was known for reaching out to customers directly, asking for feedback, and putting his personal contact information out there so customers could get in touch with him.

He and his team kept at it, though. He was known for reaching out to customers directly, asking for feedback, and putting his personal contact information out there so customers could get in touch with him.

Source: Business Insider, The Guardian, Business Insider

His persistence proved to be effective, and the site kept growing.

His persistence proved to be effective, and the site kept growing.

Source: Business Insider, The Guardian

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In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Silbermann called Pinterest a "visual discovery tool" — as in, you can type one thing into the search box and be served tons of versions of it that you didn't even know existed.

In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Silbermann called Pinterest a "visual discovery tool" — as in, you can type one thing into the search box and be served tons of versions of it that you didn't even know existed.

Source: The Guardian

And he's right. Even a simple home decor search like "soft carpet" can lead you to things you didn't know were even options, like the puzzle-piece carpet below.

And he's right. Even a simple home decor search like "soft carpet" can lead you to things you didn't know were even options, like the puzzle-piece carpet below.

Source: The Guardian

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Even for something as blasé as re-doing a bathroom, "You don't have to pin photos of your own windowless box," Carole Cadwalladr of The Guardian wrote. "You can pin pictures of the bathroom that you think should define you rather than the one you have." The same is true for any aspect of the home or an aspirational space.

Even for something as blasé as re-doing a bathroom, "You don't have to pin photos of your own windowless box," Carole Cadwalladr of The Guardian wrote. "You can pin pictures of the bathroom that you think should define you rather than the one you have." The same is true for any aspect of the home or an aspirational space.

Source: The Guardian, Pinterest

The digital collecting hub went public in April 2019 under the ticker PINS with an initial valuation of $10 billion, according to CNBC.

The digital collecting hub went public in April 2019 under the ticker PINS with an initial valuation of $10 billion, according to CNBC.

Source: CNBC

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CNBC reported that on the same day, the valuation increased to nearly $13 billion.

CNBC reported that on the same day, the valuation increased to nearly $13 billion.

Source: CNBC

Today, nearly six months later, the company is valued at $3.96 billion.

Today, nearly six months later, the company is valued at $3.96 billion.

Source: Markets Insider

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Despite the platform's enormous success and Silbermann's net worth, he has been described as a "modest genius" by The Guardian.

Despite the platform's enormous success and Silbermann's net worth, he has been described as a "modest genius" by The Guardian.

Source: The Guardian

"Yeah, I mean my life is pretty … exciting, but I don't know that it's conventionally glamorous," he told The Guardian in 2014. Silbermann has also been described as a family man.

"Yeah, I mean my life is pretty … exciting, but I don't know that it's conventionally glamorous," he told The Guardian in 2014. Silbermann has also been described as a family man.

Source: The Guardian

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He said that he was renting a two-bedroom apartment with his wife Divya Bhaskaran — pictured below — at the time of the interview, and his daily routine involved dropping his son off at daycare before heading to work.

He said that he was renting a two-bedroom apartment with his wife Divya Bhaskaran — pictured below — at the time of the interview, and his daily routine involved dropping his son off at daycare before heading to work.

Source: The Guardian, Money Inc

Silbermann's platform exudes the same non-flashy, non-pretentious energy that he does as a person.

Silbermann's platform exudes the same non-flashy, non-pretentious energy that he does as a person.

Source: The Guardian, CNBC

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Cadwalladr wrote that Pinterest users believe the site is more robust than other social networking platforms because it "goes far beyond 'showing how many friends you have or how clever you are.'"

Cadwalladr wrote that Pinterest users believe the site is more robust than other social networking platforms because it "goes far beyond 'showing how many friends you have or how clever you are.'"

Source: The Guardian

And that seems to be intentional. "Pinterest isn't a social network," Silbermann told CNBC. "We really think about it as a utility" rather than somewhere for chatting with friends and following famous people.

And that seems to be intentional. "Pinterest isn't a social network," Silbermann told CNBC. "We really think about it as a utility" rather than somewhere for chatting with friends and following famous people.

Source: CNBC

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" ... We're an inspiration platform," he said. "We don't claim to be a free speech platform or a place that everyone can publish anything." That approach has allowed Silbermann and his team to decide what they do and don't allow to take place on their site.

" ... We're an inspiration platform," he said. "We don't claim to be a free speech platform or a place that everyone can publish anything." That approach has allowed Silbermann and his team to decide what they do and don't allow to take place on their site.

Source: CNBC

From dreaming about getting a taste of the history being made in Silicon Valley to actually being one of the biggest names making that history, Silbermann has had quite the rise to the top.

From dreaming about getting a taste of the history being made in Silicon Valley to actually being one of the biggest names making that history, Silbermann has had quite the rise to the top.

Source: The Guardian, CNBC

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