Tag / Pinterest

The first thing Don Draper does when he gets to his office is give his busty secretary a suggestive wink. The second thing he does is take off his fedora. Finally, depending on the severity of the previous night, he completes his morning routine with a stiff drink.

What can we learn from Don’s habits? First, that scotch and submissive secretaries always equal drama. But what of that fedora? There’s a lesson there too.

As any Mad Men fan knows, it was once popular for men to wear hats everywhere they went — except that is, when they stepped indoors. When a gentleman went inside, he removed his hat and placed it on the nearest rack. It was a required social norm, a sign you were ready for business.

Right now, someone is tinkering with a billion dollar secret — they just don’t know it yet. “What people aren’t telling you,” Peter Thiel taught his class at Stanford, “can very often give you great insight as to where you should be directing your attention.”

Secrets people can’t or don’t want to divulge are a common thread behind Thiel’s most lucrative investments such as Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as several other breakout companies of the past decade. The kinds of truths Thiel discusses — the kinds that create billion dollar businesses in just a few years — are not held exclusively by those with deep corporate pockets. In fact, the person most likely to build the next great tech business will likely be a scrappy entrepreneur with a big dream, a sharp mind, and a valuable secret.

NOTE: This post originally appeared in Techcrunch. (Photo credits)

Reading Leena Rao’s recent article on Techcrunch about the personalization revolution, you get the sense that the tech world is waiting for a bus that isn’t coming. Rao quotes well-known industry experts and luminaries describing what needs to happen for e-commerce to finally realize the promise of personalized shopping, a future where online retailers predict what you’ll want to buy before you know yourself.

Ironically, Rao and her pundits are missing the zooming race car that’s speeding by them as they wait for the personalization bus to arrive. That racecar is Pinterest and the new breed of startups marking the beginning of what I call the “Curated Web.”

Note: This article was first published in Forbes

Executive Summary:

  • Pinterest is onto something big, but few know its obvious secret.
  • The company is succeeding because of its focus on reducing users’ cognitive load.
  • Pinterest brilliantly aligns its user experience with its business objectives of getting users to consume, create and share content.
  • Pinterest will soon have the richest consumer purchase intent data ever assembled.

Last week, I sat down for drinks with a few friends.  “Have you heard of this Pinterest website?” said Jonathan, “My wife is totally addicted.” “Yes! Molly is hooked too,” said Ben, “She even has her grandmother into it, who, by the way, still can’t figure out Facebook.”  “What’s Pinterest?” said Colin, the unmarried engineer.

My friends, the very definition of tech-savvy, couldn’t understand Pinterest’s astounding success.  For one, the idea of capturing photos on a virtual wall is nothing new.  The Facebook newsfeed is 5 years old and searching for pretty pictures on Google Images is ancient.

(Photo credit)

Lately, I’ve noticed a startling paradox in Silicon Valley.  I see shitty companies hiring more engineers than they know what to do with, while other, much better companies struggle to fill open roles.  Now my definition of “shitty” is completely subjective, but I bet you too can name some ridiculous start-ups that no sane engineer should work for. Meanwhile, companies catering to huge markets, logical business models, amazing user growth, and cash in the bank from top investors, are having a hard time hiring tech talent.  What gives?

I call this phenomenon the developer divide. It occurs after a company has cracked a user need and is gaining traction, the VCs have started piling on the cash and the servers are melting from all the users.  But there’s one big problem.  The company is having trouble hiring engineers to keep up with the torrid pace of growth.