Evan Sharp, Pinterest

While in architecture school in 2009, Evan Sharp started Pinterest with two friends as a fun side project. He later left Facebook to lead the design and front-end engineering of Pinterest full time. Their website and mobile app enables users to collect and share their favorite images. In large part due to its simplicity and beautiful execution, Pinterest has quickly skyrocketed to success with more than 30 million users globally and a $1.5 billion valuation.

Tell us about some of your earliest entrepreneurial endeavors, from selling lemonade to shirts.

I’m really not much of an entrepreneur. I hate to say it…I actually don’t hate to say it. I’m totally fine saying it. I fell into this thing, in a good way. I think I’m more of a builder, not to be too ideological about it. So I could talk about some of the first things I built or designed.

Both would be great.

I was a science nerd, so I did all that science experiment stuff for years. I grew crystals and did rocket ships. I love model rockets. I pirated Photoshop when I was young. That was inspirational for me, and I had it for years. I used to do all the icons and stuff in OS8, OS9.

There was this website ResExcellence.com. The “Res” was for ResEdit, which is the old program you could use to mess with all the assets in OS. It was like Dribbble way before Dribbble. There was this huge community of people who would make new startup screens or theme their Mac. There were other sites like it too, interesting, weird OS theming. I was in a Wired article back in middle school because I did so much of it.

All these people into UI [user interface] stuff had no outlet because there was no such thing as a beautiful website or an app. There was nothing else to build unless you had a great engineer working with you to build an application, which looked like shit. It’s pretty crazy. We were design hacking OS7, 8, 9. But I didn’t sell anything, still haven’t sold anything yet.

How did you come across Photoshop and resexcellence.com?

When I first got into coding—not web coding, just like C+ or something from some school class. I basically stole my parents’ old computer from the basement; I was so lucky my parents had Macs. It was hard to program because I was using all this Visual Basic at school. Somehow people talked about Photoshop, so I just downloaded it. And I’m just a really big introvert, so I stayed in my room and learned it.

And did your parents ever use the word “design”?

No, I didn’t even know design was a thing until way, way later, like after college. Honestly. If someone had told me they were going to school for design, I would have assumed they meant logos. I’d always been into architecture, which of course is very similar, but it’s not popularly called design.

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