Pinterest’s diversity report is missing some key data

Pinterest today released its latest diversity report, showing slight gains in representation of underrepresented minorities while also hitting its three hiring goals.

The company has long been recognized as an industry leader when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion. It was one of the first tech companies to publicly release diversity data, and in 2015, became the first to set concrete hiring goals.

In its report today, Pinterest said it beat all of its hiring goals, which focus on female engineers and engineers from underrepresented groups, as well as business and product employees from underrepresented groups. Women now make up 25% of the company’s engineering team and underrepresented folks comprise 10% of the overall company— but while making progress across its three hiring goals, there was little change in overall representation of underrepresented minorities year over year.

R.I.P. Goofy Times

A strange new sensation has settled across the tech industry, one so foreign, so alien, it’s almost hard to recognize. A sense that some great expectations are being radically revised downwards; that someone has turned down a previously unquenchable money spigot; that unit economics can matter even when you’re in growth mode. Could it be … thrift?

Well, OK, let’s not go that crazy. But we are witnessing a remarkable confluence of (relatively) parsimonious events. Last year’s high-profile tech IPOs are far from high-fliers: Uber, Lyft, Slack, Pinterest, and Peloton are all down from their IPO prices as I write this, some of them significantly so, even while the overall market has climbed to all-time highs. Those who expected immediate massive wealth six months later, even for relative recent employees, have been surprised.

Meanwhile, not-yet-public companies are tightening their belts, or taking their chances. We have seen recent waves of layoffs at a spectrum of tech unicorns. Others, i.e. Casper and One Medical, just filed for IPOs to general criticism if not outright derision of the numbers in their S-1s.

The less said about the WeWork debacle, the better, but we can’t not talk about it, as the repercussions have been significant. Both directly — SoftBank is ramping back significantly, including walking away from term sheets, prompting more layoffs — and indirectly, in that they seem to have swung the Valley’s overall mood from greed towards fear.

Towards fear, please note, not to fear; there’s a big difference. Even in the absence of SoftBank there is is still a whole lot of venture money sloshing around out there … although it seems possible that its investors are beginning to find it a little harder to spend it responsibly. VCs, correctly, are generally still extremely optimistic about the overall future of the tech industry, and still tend to focus on growth first, revenue a distant second, cash flow third, and profits maybe someday eventually depending on a lot of factors.

That said, the once-pervasive sense that everything tech touches immediately turns to gold is much diminished. It’s worth noting that many pure software companies, and their IPOs, are still very successful: Zoom, Docusign, Datadog, and a lot of other companies you’ve never heard of unless you’re an enterprise software fetishist are doing quite nicely, thanks. It’s only consumer tech which seems to be either currently disappointing or previously overvalued, depending on your point of view. Software is continuing to eat the world.

But there seems to be a growing recognition that the world is a forest, not a pizza, and there is a big difference between low-hanging fruit and eggs hidden in the high branches. Just because you use some custom software doesn’t make you a software company; it just means you’re paying today’s table stakes. So if you’re not a software company, and you’re not a hardware company … then how exactly are you a tech company?

By that rubric, which seems like a pretty reasonable one, WeWork isn’t a tech company, and never was. Casper isn’t a tech company. One Medical isn’t a tech company. (This is admittedly highly anecdotal, but judging from my own household’s recently experiences, One Medical’s new software systems seem to have degraded rather than improved their level of care.) They’ve been dressed up like tech companies to adopt the tech halo, but it looks awfully unconvincing on them — and they’ve done so just as that halo has begun to slip.

Maybe this multi-market malaise is temporary, a hangover from a few overhyped IPOs and last year’s SoftBank madness. Maybe the tech wheat will be separated from the wannabe chaff soon enough, and the former will continue to prosper. Or maybe, just maybe, we’re beginning to see the end of the golden days of low hanging fruit, and increasingly only hard science or hard software will be the paths to tech success. It’s a little unclear which way to hope.

Direct mail still works if you avoid common mistakes

We’ve aggregated many of the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of 1,000 startup founders and VP’s of growth from later-stage companies. We have 400 YC founders, plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo and Ritual .

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group, or marketing training program.

Without further ado, onto our community’s advice.

Advertising in Discord/Telegram communities

Insights from Varun Mathure of Midnite

Discord/Telegram can be a great place to find engaged, niche communities for advertising. However, do not treat it like a typical ad channel. Community marketing is its own art, and there are many principles to doing it effectively. Here are just a few:

  • Treat Discord/Telegram users like you would Reddit users: they’ll reject being advertised to unless there’s legitimate, authentic value being provided.
  • Work with moderators to offer services that make their moderation duties easier. Perhaps a bot or tool that would be legitimately useful to the community while also organically pitching your startup.
  • Have a well-respected community member vouch for you — it goes a long way toward building trust with the rest of the community. Always start by building relationships.
  • Have a member of your team active in the community. Don’t just advertise; contribute regularly.
  • Run promos/incentives that encourage members to post your product screenshots or share your product output in the community. In other words, incentivize a frictionless way for community members to become your brand ambassadors.

Landing page tear-downs [Video]

Watch us critique landing pages. In the process, you’ll learn how to improve your own.

Most common direct mail mistakes

Turning Google traffic into leads, and what’s new in SEO

We’ve aggregated the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you’re going stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice you can’t get elsewhere.

Our community consists of 600 startup founders paired with VP’s of growth from later-stage companies. We have 300 YC founders plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo and Ritual.

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group, or marketing training program. See past growth reports here and here.

Without further ado, onto the advice.


What are some new, advanced SEO strategies?

Our community ran an SEO masterclass in which we discussed Google’s algorithm updates and shared advanced practices for writing blog content in a data-driven manner.

Tactics for turning blog visitors into leads

Based on insights from Nat Eliason from Growth Machine.

SEO traffic can sometimes be a vanity metric if you’re not converting it into lead flow. Here are three ways to convert blog visitors into leads:

  1. Prompt blog readers with quizzes to help them identify the product/plan that’s best suited for them. Then require their email address to see results. Follow up with drip emails.
  2. Create “Buyer’s Guides” — downloadable PDFs with nice visuals that help readers figure out how to accomplish their goals (e.g. “paleo cooking starter kit.”) Again, require an email for them to download the complete guide.
  3. Pixel your blog visitors and retarget them with Facebook ads. Have the ads send visitors to landing pages that match whichever blog content category initially drew them to the site.

How to (re-)target business customers with Facebook ads

Based on insights from Nima Gardideh of Pearmill and Julian Shapiro of Demand Curve.

Most people use their personal email address on their Facebook/Instagram account. So if you’re collecting business emails during your user onboarding process, Facebook can have a hard time matching those emails to the corresponding Facebook profiles when creating custom targeting lists. 

 Here are a few tricks around this:

Pinterest launches a new ‘Lite’ app for emerging markets

Pinterest is the latest tech company to introduce a “Lite” version of its mobile application to meet the needs of users in emerging markets. With Pinterest Lite, launched on Monday, users will benefit from a faster download and an app that takes up less storage space on their mobile device, the company says.

Pinterest previously offered a Pinterest Lite app on Google Play, but this app was pulled a year ago, according to data from App Annie.

The new Pinterest Lite app is actually Pinterest’s Progressive Web App (PWA) that’s been made available to Google Play users as a download, the company tells TechCrunch.

This is a project that’s been underway for some time, according to a post last year on Pinterest’s Engineering blog. There, the company acknowledged that its mobile web experience had been “terrible” and in need of an update.

In July 2017, Pinterest formed a team to rewrite the mobile web app from scratch as a PWA. It said this would offer a better experience for people in low-bandwidth environments and on limited data plans.

Screen Shot 2019 10 09 at 2.18.08 PM

The Pinterest Lite mobile app is available today to Android users in Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Mexico, and clocks in at a tiny 1.4 MB. The main Pinterest app’s size varies by device on Android, but is significantly larger. On iOS, it’s 143.1 MB, for comparison’s sake.

“The goal is to bring Pinterest to everyone around the world so they can discover inspiration related to their interests wherever they might be,” a Pinterest spokesperson said, when reached for comment about the Pinterest Lite launch.

Pinterest is now one of many top publishers who offer a “Lite” version of their flagship apps.

Google has a full suite of lightweight “Go”-branded apps, like Google Go, Gmail Go, Files Go, YouTube Go, Google Maps Go and Google Assistant Go. There’s also Facebook LiteInstagram LiteMessenger LiteTwitter LiteUber LiteSpotify Lite, TikTok Lite, Skype Lite and LINE Lite, to name a few others. Tinder had also said earlier this year it was working on a Tinder Lite app to better serve the Indian market. That app quietly launched over the summer.

Offering a Lite app is a baseline requirement these days for competing in emerging markets.

Pinterest, in particular, has been working to expand its global footprint, and recently reported international revenue was up 199%, to $24 million in Q2, and international monthly users were up 38% to 215 million, out of a total of 300 million users. However, the U.S. continues to drive the majority of Pinterest’s revenue, contributing $153 million of the total $261 million reported in Q2.

Image credit: Pinterest 

As Sinai Ventures returns first fund, partner Jordan Fudge talks new LA focus

At age 27, Jordan Fudge is quietly making a splash in the VC world.

Fudge is the managing partner of Sinai Ventures, a multi-stage VC fund that manages $100 million and has more than 80 portfolio companies including Ro, Drivetime, Kapwing, and Luminary. His 2017 investment in Pinterest — a secondary shares deal from his prior firm that was rolled into Sinai when he spun out — will have returned the value of Sinai’s Fund I by itself once the lockup on shares expires next week.

Fudge and co-founder Eric Reiner, a Northwestern University classmate, hired staff in New York and San Francisco when Sinai launched in early 2018. Today, they’re centralizing the team in Los Angeles for its next fund, a bet on the rising momentum of the local startup ecosystem and their vision to be the city’s leading Series A and B firm.

Fudge and Reiner have intentionally stayed off the radar thus far, wanting to prove themselves first through a track record of investments.

Kwaku EDITS V2

Jordan Fudge. Image via Sinai Ventures

A part-time film financier who also serves on the board of LGBT advocacy non-profit GLAAD, Fudge describes himself as an atypical VC firm founder, an edge he’s using to carve out his niche in a crowded VC landscape.

I spoke with Fudge to learn more about his strategy at Sinai and what led to him founding the firm. Here’s the transcript (edited for length and clarity):

Eric Peckham: Tell me the origin story here. How did Sinai Ventures get seeded?

Jordan Fudge: I was working for Eagle Advisors, a multi-billion dollar family office for one of the founders of SAP, focused on the tech sector across public markets, crypto, and eventually VC deals. Two years in, I pitched them on spinning out to focus on VC and they seeded Sinai with the private investments like Compass and Pinterest I had done already, plus a fresh fund to invest out of on my own. It was $100 million combined.

‘We are seeing volume and interest in Peloton explode,’ says company president on listing day

This morning, Peloton (NASDAQ: PTON), the tech-enabled stationary bicycle and fitness content streaming company, raised $1.2 billion in its NASDAQ initial public offering. Despite dropping more than 10% in its first day of trading — ultimately closing down 11% at $25.84 per share — the IPO was a bona fide success. Peloton, once denied (over and over again) by VC skeptics, now has hundreds of millions of dollars to take its business into a new era. One in which, the media, hardware, software, logistics and social company attempts to become a generation-defining company akin to Apple.

Founded in 2012 — six years after Soul Cycle opened its first cycling studio in New York’s Upper East Side and two years before a Soul Cycle founder, Ruth Zukerman, jumped ship to launch her own indoor cycling business, Flywheel Sports — a man by the name of John Foley made the ambitious, some might say foolish, decision to start a company that would sell these exercise bikes direct-to-consumer. That way, you could take a Soul Cycle class, in essence, in the comfort of your own home. Even better, technology would improve the experience.

As my colleague Josh Constine recently described it, these bikes come outfitted with a 22-inch Android screen, transforming an outdated exercising experience and bringing it into 2019: “It makes lazy people like me work out. That’s the genius of the Peloton bicycle. All you have to do is Velcro on the shoes and you’re trapped. You’ve eliminated choice and you will exercise,” Constine writes.

Peloton’s ability to get people exercise — a feature driven by its talented instructors (some of whom were poached from competitor Flywheel Sports) — ultimately had venture capital investors funneling $1 billion, roughly, into the business. Today, Peloton operates dozens of showrooms across the U.S., counts 1.4 million total community members — defined as any individual who has a Peloton account — and over 500,000 paying subscribers. Why? Because the company, as stated in its IPO prospectus, “sells happiness.”

“Peloton is so much more than a Bike — we believe we have the opportunity to create one of the most innovative global technology platforms of our time,” writes Foley. “It is an opportunity to create one of the most important and influential interactive media companies in the world; a media company that changes lives, inspires greatness, and unites people.”

Peloton Bike Lifestyle 04

Peloton’s flagship product, a tech-enabled stationary bike.

Peloton’s community coupled with the high margins on sales of its $2,245 bikes had the company reporting $915 million in total revenue for the year ending June 30, 2019, an increase of 110% from $435 million in fiscal 2018 and $218.6 million in 2017. Its losses, meanwhile, hit $245.7 million in 2019, up significantly from a reported net loss of $47.9 million last year.

What’s next for Peloton? The opportunities are endless, given the company’s firm seat at the intersection of hardware, software, media content and more. A third product may be in the works, expansion to international markets or new instructors. Peloton is going after a massive market ripe for disruption. What’s certain is that we’ll see a whole lot of cash flowing into fitness tech copycats in the next couple of years.

Peloton, following a number of lukewarm consumer IPOs (Uber), nearly doubled its valuation to $8.1 billion this morning after pricing its IPO at the top of its range, $29 per share. To answer some of our most burning questions, we chatted with Peloton’s president William Lynch, the former CEO of Barnes & Noble, about the float.

The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

William Lynch

Peloton president and former Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch.


Kate Clark: What’s next for Peloton?
William Lynch: We now have over a billion in capital to fuel more growth, especially in the area of product innovation.

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