Ben Silbermann steps down as CEO of Pinterest, the company announced on Tuesday† He will be replaced by Bill Ready, who spent the past few years as head of Commerce, Payments & Next Billion Users at Google. Silbermann won’t leave the company, though: he’ll become the executive chairman of Pinterest, following in the footsteps of a number of tech CEOs who have recently transitioned from the day-to-day trenches of running their businesses to a relatively more relaxed boardroom seat.
“Bill is actually going to be a better CEO than me in this next chapter,” says Silbermann told The Wall Street Journal as part of its announcement. There’s only one way to read that: the time for the founder of product dreamer is over. Pinterest’s next job is making money. Lots of money. Fast.
Pinterest has long seemed like a missed opportunity for investors. It’s a platform with hundreds of millions of users that doesn’t grow that fast or make a lot of money, although most of those users spend their time searching for and pinning things they want to buy. Over the years, instead of competing with retailers and shopping platforms, it has become a hugely powerful discovery and management engine for shoppers everywhere.
There’s an enticing—and probably wildly profitable—future where Pinterest acts like something like the internet shopping mall: a single place for users to buy brands from all over the web, enable purchases anywhere (and presumably participate). But Pinterest has been slow to embrace store and buy features, slow to embrace the creative economy, and generally slow to keep up with the future of commerce.
Ready, on the other hand, has a long track record of being at the forefront of e-commerce. He was a top executive at both Venmo and PayPal before joining Google in 2020 to run his various commerce projects. Google Shopping certainly hasn’t taken over the world in the past two years, but Ready certainly had an impact: Commerce became a vital part of YouTube’s future, Google redesigned the way Shopping works, and the company reinvested in its payment systems like Wallet.
And now, Ready seems to have big commercial plans for Pinterest. “In the next phase of our journey, we will help people dig deeper into all the inspiring products and services they find on our platform so they can build their best lives,” he wrote in a LinkedIn message announce his move. “As someone who has spent most of my career in commerce and payments, it’s so clear to me that Pinterest has the ability to build something unique – something special.”
Ready takes over the company at an exciting time, as the company has gone to great lengths to lead the way in creating a better kind of social network while also dealing with internal allegations about a problematic and discriminatory work culture† The rest of the internet is also catching up with Pinterest as platforms like Snap and YouTube and even Twitter are embracing the shopping-ification of everything. Pinterest had the opportunity to become a major player in digital commerce and perhaps still does. But the new CEO will have to act quickly.