Pinterest has been a buzzworthy topic for nearly two years, cashing in on its popularity last week with a $225 million in a Series E round of funding led by Fidelity Investments, with the participation of current investors Andreessen Horowitz, FirstMark Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners and Valiant Capital Management.
Now that its valuation has exceeded $3 billion, many are wondering what it is about Pinterest that’s got investors so interested, and what the next steps are for the photo-pinning community. While Pinterest has shared few details regarding its near-term pipeline, we do know the startup is looking to expand internationally, and grow its mobile presence.
Show me the money… later.
Still to be determined is how Pinterest will generate revenue, justifying the hundreds of millions investors have poured into the social network. Pinterest founder and CEO Ben Silbermann has shared his vision for contextualizing his site for profit, but is hesitant to tarnish the user experience in the process.
“Right now we don’t [make money],” Silbermann tells Businessweek. “But the big-picture assumption of the company is that there is a direct link between the things you pin and the things that you eventually spend money on. In there, we think, lies a model where we can actually make Pinterest more useful. And we can help businesses by bringing in more customers and helping them sell things and connect with people.”
As Pinterest matures, it will need a strong ecosystem of third party applications, strategic partners and advertising brands, to succeed on a global scale. Managing this growth process is quite an undertaking, but one Pinterest is well prepared for. Here’s a comprehensive list of Pinterest’s ecosystem activity from this year, highlighting key acquisitions and partnerships for the startup.
In January, Pinterest made its very first acquisition when it bought recipe discovery and sharing site Punchfork. When Punchfork launched in 2011, it paved the way for budding chefs to discover scrumptious recipes as well as share them with friends and family.
Pinterest has been a platform for sharing many things, especially “food porn”, so the acquisition of Punchfork came as no surprise, since it wants to be the sole service that inspires people with their content offering. With the acquisition, Punchfork was effectively shut down.
Months after the Punchfork acquisition, Pinterest was already fast at work in eliminating other content discovery platforms. Pinterest acquired mobile recommendations app Livestar. This acquisition was more of a talent buy, as three people from Livestar’s engineering team joined Pinterest while the whole service was shut down.
The other thing Livestar had going for it was mobile prowess, looking to recommend products based on user preference and location. As Pinterest looks to grow its mobile context, the engineering team may be exactly what the startup needs.
And most recently, Pinterest has allegedly acquired HackerMeter. HackerMeter is a service that aimed to replace the résumé for coders by giving coders a series of tests which will be graded based on the coder’s performance and the code’s efficiency. Reports suggest that HackerMeter will be shut down once the deal is finalized. No news yet as to when that will happen, as both companies have yet to acknowledge if the deal is real.
This also looks to be a talent buy, as it’s reported that HackerMeter’s co-founders will join Pinterest’s engineering team. Pinterest will be looking to scale up its backend with an international push, and that will require dedicated engineers to manage the growth. Building out more metrics dashboards for brands will also appeal to advertisers, and will require a great deal of technical know-how.
In May, Pinterest partnered with many of the brands you know and love, such as eBay, Target, ModCloth, Sony and Netflix, to introduce more descriptive pins. The content of the pins will depend on the brands posting them. This partnership hopes to deliver more meaningful pins to people with just a glance, as well as a chance for brands to advertise specific products on Pinterest.
In its latest effort to become relevant and contextualize web content better than longtime rival Google, Bing has included Pinterest pins in its search results. The partnership aims to deliver a social element to Bing by uniting pins and boards curated by real people.
Though it definitely provides a better way of searching images, as well as discovering pins, there is no assurance that people will actually use Bing just to discover pins on Pinterest when they can easily go directly to Pinterest’s site for the full experience.
In Latin America and Europe, Pinterest has partnered with network carrier Telefónica to have Android phones come equipped with a Pinterest widget by default. Though this is an unpaid partnership, it aims to encourage more people to sign up for the service. The app auto-updates on the home-screen and allows unregistered people to browse Pinterest pins.
And finally, to help improve the service, Pinterest has partnered with Getty Images, a service that offers some of the best and broadest collections of imagery created by a community of hundreds of thousands of contributors.
The great thing about images on Getty is that each result includes information about the image, such as who took the picture, when and where the image was taken, and what or who is in the photo. The information on Getty will help people learn more about the image, especially when pin descriptions and links offer no help.
This partnership would also allow Pinterest to better recommend related images. The partnership requires Pinterest to pay for the data being shared by Getty Images, and make sure the images receive proper attribution.