The 'rapid' rise of Pinterest

The virtual pinboarding social network may be the next hot thing — and has already seen its value catapult this year from $40 million to $200 million

A Pinterest pinboard: Users can focus on a topic, like cooking, and share ideas, images, and recipes with their followers.
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Stick a pin it. That's the premise behind Pinterest, which is being hailed as "the hottest new social startup." Pinterest allows users to virtually "pin" ideas and images of things they like — from furniture to food to wedding bouquets — to a virtual pinboard, which they then share with friends. It "seems to fill a unique niche in the world of social networking — our love of talking about what we love," says Blue Interactive Agency. Here, a brief guide to Pinterest's "rapid" rise:

Who came up with Pinterest?

The site's founder is 29-year-old Ben Silbermann of West Des Moines, Iowa. He spent a couple years making charts and crunching numbers at Google, but yearned to start his own web company, particularly after seeing many of his former colleagues "make the plunge." The idea for the site came out of Silbermann's love of entomology and collecting things. He thought others might have a similar passion for creating collections and sharing them with friends — and doing it online. He was right. Silbermann now counts some 552,808 followers on his Pinterest account alone.

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How did the site become so popular?

The site was launched in March of 2010. It initially generated little interest in Silicon Valley, but it soon caught on among women in the Midwest, and has been spreading ever since. In August, TIME counted it among the "50 Best Websites of 2011." While similar ideas have been tried before, "this time it might take off," says Harry McCracken at TIME. "Perusing other folks' boards, featuring everything from picturesque travel scenes to oddly beautiful bacteria, is as enjoyable as building your own."

Who uses Pinterest?

The site is especially popular among women, which is an "attractive demographic," says Semil Shah at TechCrunch. Pinterest also draws people in with its "fun, whimsical, artistic image," and is popular with creative types, fashionistas, those planning a wedding, and the healthy-living community. Last week, the Today show joined Pinterest to share "recipes from the world-renowned chefs who visit the show, parenting tips for moms, DIY style ideas and much more." Celebrity chef Paula Deen is another notable Pinterest user; she has more than 14,000 followers. Brands like Real Simple and Nordstrom also use Pinterest to share ideas and products with their customers. On Facebook, there are some 2.3 million active monthly Pinterest users.

How much money is the company worth?

In a recent round of funding, Pinterest raised $27 million, valuing it at $200 million — up from $40 million earlier this year. "People love the product, even though it is only in beta so far, with consumers who use it voraciously," says Jeff Jordan, with Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm Pinterest worked with on this latest round of funding. As of early October, the company had just eight employees.

How do I join?

The site is currently still in beta and is in invite-only mode. But it's easy to get an invitation by simply requesting one on the Pinterest site.

Sources: All Things D, Blue Interactive Agency, Pinterest, Shape, TIME, TechCrunch, Today, USA Today

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