Pinterest is starting to fill up its own Pinboard… with money people. Sarah Tavel, a former VP at Bessemer Venture Partners (the same BVP that led a Series A round in Pinterest in 2011), has now joined the social startup in a business development role.
Today’s news was announced by Tavel herself — not on Pinterest, nor on BVP’s own site, but on Twitter:
just made an important update to my twitter profile... blog post to follow... one day!—
Sarah Tavel (@sarahtavel) May 01, 2012
That update now reads: “business at @pinterest.” She also notes the same job on her LinkedIn profile.
(No, we don’t know what “business” means exactly: it could mean business development; it could mean the startup’s bookkeeping. I think it might be more likely to be the former. What’s interesting is that, judging from the LinkedIn data, this is her first role at an actual startup.)
We’ve heard from a source that Tavel made the move because she was “really excited about Pinterest’s future and wanted to be a closer part of it.”
Before joining the company, Tavel’s connection to Pinterest extended beyond happening to work at the same VC firm that led Pinterest’s first round of funding. She had been, along with Jeremy Levine, one of the people leading that investment:
Getting more business people on board right now is an important step for Pinterest as the site begins to look for ways of capitalizing on its audience without alienating them at the same time.
The site’s basic premise — building up pinboards of pictures that link to other bits of interesting content, often around themes — has attracted droves of users — primarily women. In February it was crowned the “fastest growing social network” for the speed it took to reach 10 million users, which was less than two years from when it first started in closed beta in March 2010.
And the fact that it is so visual by its nature, and so clickably sticky, makes Pinterest appear ripe as an advertising / e-commerce vehicle.
But what seemed like Pinterest’s most obvious money effort up to now — an affiliate deal powered by Skimlinks — did appear to bring in revenue. However, apparently that was only incidental to the partnership, which reportedly was more about analytics than revenue.
In the meantime, others have popped up, using Pinterest’s APIs to do some moneymaking in the process. Figures from Convertro (via a post in VentureBeat) note that between Q2 2011 and Q1 2012, Pinterest’s share of social media revenue shot up: to 17.4 percent from 1.2 percent in 2011. And that is accelerating. Convertro projects that by the end of Q2 this year, Pinterest “will be responsible for 40 percent of social media e-commerce transactions.” Facebook’s share will decline to under 60 percent from 86 percent a year ago.
There is another reason why now may be a good time for Pinterest to think a little more about not just how it will make money but what other services it can introduce to keep people returning and using the site. As we’ve pointed out recently, there are some signs that its growth may be slowing. (The headline number in that story, from April 22, is that monthly active users via Facebook — a key way for people to sign into Pinterest — dropped in the last 30 days to 8.3 million, from around 12.2 million a month before, and daily active users were also down but not by as much.)
As you might infer from Tavel’s Twitter profile pic above, she’s not the retiring sort — and that could mean interesting times for Pinterest ahead.
We’ve reached out to Tavel, Pinterest and BVP for more comment and will update this story as we hear more.