Ben Silbermann is stepping down as Pinterest’s CEO, the company announced on Tuesday. He’ll be replaced by Bill Ready, who has spent the last couple of years as head of Commerce, Payments & Next Billion Users at Google. Silbermann isn’t leaving the company, though: he’ll be Pinterest’s executive chairman, following in the path of a number of tech CEOs who have recently gone from the daily trenches of running their company to a relatively more relaxed seat in the boardroom.
“Bill’s actually going to be a better CEO than I am for this next chapter,” Silbermann told the Wallstreet Journals part of his announcement. There’s only one way to read that: the time for the product dreamer founder is out. Pinterest’s next job is to make money. A lot of money. Quickly.
Investors have long seen Pinterest as a lost opportunity. Despite the fact that the majority of its users spend their time looking for and pinning items they want to buy, the site has hundreds of millions of users and isn’t expanding or producing a lot of money. Over time, it has evolved into a tremendously potent discovery and curation engine for customers worldwide rather than competing with shops and purchasing platforms.
There is an alluring — and probably quite lucrative — future where Pinterest serves as something like the internet’s mall, allowing users to browse companies from across the internet in a single location and enabling purchases everywhere (and presumably taking a cut). But Pinterest was slow to embrace shopping and buying features, slow to embrace the creator economy, and generally slow to keep up with the future of commerce.
On the other side, Ready has a long history of setting the bar higher for e-commerce. Prior to joining Google in 2020 to oversee its many commerce efforts, he held senior management positions at both Venmo and PayPal. Although Google Shopping hasn’t exactly taken the world by storm in the past two years, Ready has had a significant impact nonetheless. Thanks to Ready, YouTube’s future will be heavily reliant on commerce, Google redesigned Shopping, and the company made investments in Wallet and other payment options.
And now, Ready seems to have big commerce plans for Pinterest. “In the next phase of our journey, we will help people engage more deeply with all the inspiring products and services they find on our platform so they can build their best lives,” he wrote in a LinkedIn post announcing 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 opportunity to build something unique—something special.”
Ready takes over the business at a fascinating time since it has worked hard to set the standard for building a better form of the social network while simultaneously addressing internal complaints about unfavorable workplace culture. As websites like Snap, YouTube, and even Twitter embrace the commoditization of everything, they are lagging behind Pinterest in terms of popularity. Pinterest had a chance—and perhaps still does—to be a significant force in online trade. But the upcoming CEO will need to act soon.