Pinterest Co-Founder Shares the Simple Step He Took to Transform His Communication Style
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Editor's Note: Entrepreneur's "20 Questions" series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.
If you look hard enough, you can find inspiration everywhere. That philosophy is the driving force behind visual search engine and social network Pinterest.
Evan Sharp launched the company with co-founders Ben Silbermann and Paul Sciarra. Initially, they wanted to create a tool that would help them collect the things online that interested them in one place.
But the trio quickly realized that the most compelling use of the platform wasn’t storing things they already knew they liked, but being inspired by what others were posting, in categories such as cooking, literature and art, home and fashion design, gardening, fitness and travel.
Today, Pinterest receives more than 200 million monthly visitors. The company has raised $1.5 billion and acquired 15 companies. Its headquarters is in San Francisco, and more than 1,500 employees work out of offices across the U.S. and internationally.
We caught up with Sharp to ask him 20 questions and find out what makes him tick.
1. How do you start your day?
I often walk through the park next to my house on the way to the train. I’m so much my more myself at work once I feel that moment of connection to nature.
2. How do you end your day?
I look at inspirational quotes on Pinterest. It helps me feel more grateful for what I have, and appreciative of my own gifts.
3. What’s a book that changed your min,d and why?
The Social Conquest of Earth, by E.O. Wilson. It opened my eyes to the rare and precious social nature of humans. It fundamentally changed my view on our species.
4. What’s a book you always recommend, and why?
Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez. It opened me up to how landscape inevitably shapes human culture, and the fact that land contains wisdom, if you just decide to stop and look.
5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
I removed the Mail app from my phone. This sounded impossible to me, until I did it. The truly urgent things come in text messages, and I send more thoughtful responses to email if I wait to use my laptop.
6. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an architect. I still do.
7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
Enabling people to take care of themselves outside of work ultimately leads to happier, more productive employees.
8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
Jony Ive at Apple has taught me that the most impactful creative work springs from a deep sensitivity to humanity, in addition to technology and business.
9. What’s a trip that changed you?
My first trip to Japan helped open my eyes to how fundamentally different two cultures can be, even if they feel very similar on the surface.
10. What inspires you?
Pinterest. I’ve discovered ideas for gifts for my wife, design and architecture projects, gardening, style, and how to decorate the nursery for my daughter.
11. What was your first business idea, and what did you do with it?
Again, Pinterest. I built it as a side project, and it took off. Today over two hundred million people discover ideas on Pinterest each month.
12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?
I worked third shift at a pretzel factory during college. It taught me how difficult manual labor is and how unforgiving most work environments are of situations that inevitably arise in people's’ lives. It taught me to appreciate the many luxuries I have at my job now.
13. What’s the best advice you ever took?
To be myself at work [and] to double down on my strengths and to let my role and team take shape around me, rather than conforming to how I’ve been told a co-founder should behave.
14. What's the worst piece of advice you ever got?
As the co-founder of an internet startup, you’re constantly being compared to other similar companies. This means it’s easy to let momentum drive many of your decisions. Most of the worst advice I’ve received came from people looking at other companies and assuming our situation was similar or identical.
15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
For me productivity is about focusing on the outcome I want at all times. It find it’s often much easier to do short-term things that feel important than the harder, longer-term things that actually make a difference.
16. Is there an app or a tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?
I use an old-school app called a journal -- it helps me stay off the phone and stay focused on the task at hand.
17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
My work is an expression of my creativity, and my creativity flows from my life experience. The two are expressions of one another. Balance means choosing to focus fully on each, in their time, and not let one override the other.
18. How do you prevent burnout?
I garden for several hours each week. Plants teach me patience and attentiveness.
19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?
I find inspiration on Pinterest to get me past the block and back into creative flow.
20. What are you learning now? Why is that important?
Right now I’m learning a lot about parenting, as my wife and I are expecting our first child in a few months.