Ben Silbermann started working on Pinterest in 2009. The social curation site entered into open beta mode in March 2010 and began to gain traction in the second half of 2011. As of January 2012, there are over 10 million monthly Pinterest users.
Pinterest usage was dismally low for more than a year (by the end of 2010, it has only 10,000 users). I think many “experts” then would’ve adviced Silbermann to scrap the project or morph it into something else. Silbermann and his team didn’t waver and remain resilient. As Silbermann put it, “We just felt like if everyday we were getting a little closer to something that we would be really proud of, we would never regret the time we’d invested.”
Social drawing app, Draw Something, is also growing insanely. Since it was released on February 1 2012, the app has surpassed 30 million downloads (and now adding more than a million users a day). Users of the social drawing app have created over 2 billion drawings, and exchanging 2,000 to 3,000 drawings a second with one another. Ads on the app went from zero to 200 million impressions per day.
OMGPOP is no newcomer in the social apps space. Before Draw Something, the company has created over 30 game titles. Early last year, the company released a social drawing app for Facebook called Draw My Thing. Knowledge gathered over the years since its formation in 2006 has enabled the company create and cope with its current success.
“Every decision you see in the (DrawSomething) game is based on things we has learned,” said OMGPOP CEO Dan Porter. He continued, “We are super blessed but we’ve done iterations of this game since 2008.We learned how to manage real-time and semi real-time engagement with our first multiplayer online game site. That’s why game feels the way it does.”
There were lots of iterations at Pinterest too. According to CEO Silbermann, “there were literally dozens of version that [Pinterest grid] were fully coded, fully styled with live production of data that we went through. We’d vary the width, we’d vary where the meta-data was, we’d vary whether the person on the left side or the right side…We just felt like if your collections didn’t look awesome, if they weren’t really beautiful, why would you spend time to build them?”
Hundreds of thousands of tech startups are sprouting across the globe. Many will succumb to the harsh survival-of-the-fittest-and-fleetest business environment, a lot will be acquired by giant corporations, and only a handful will achieve runaway success on a global scale.
There is an interplay of various factors influencing a startup success. It is partly because of founder’s astute foresights and management capabilities in financial and talents allocation. It is also partly because of timing and as Victor Hugo wrote, One cannot resist an idea whose time has come. The success may be the unexpected results of viral effects.
A theory of everything for a startup success? No one knows. But it sure doesn’t hurt for startups to remain resilient, coupled with iterative learning ability.