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Ben Silbermann and the New Math on E-Commerce

Sometimes the best way to determine how a CEO will act is to consider his or her background. A CEO plucked from the media business is likely to talk a lot about content. One raised outside the U.S. is more likely to focus on international users. 

It’s a maxim I often turn to when thinking about Pinterest and its noticeably out-of-the-limelight CEO, Ben Silbermann.

In an industry full of brash frontmen, Silbermann is soft-spoken. He’s not anti-social per se, but he’s happy to remain behind the scenes. When people first meet him or hear him speak in public, they tend to be underwhelmed—only to quickly change their minds when he’s connected some big dots or made a quick-witted comment. Oh yes, he’s from Iowa.

But there’s something else unique about him that became relevant this week: He’s an ad guy—not a salesman, but rather an entrepreneur who cut his teeth at Google trying to help mom-and-pop websites make more money from Google ads. 

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