Pinterest Accused of Not Paying Female ‘Co-Creator’

SAN FRANCISCO — When Pinterest went public in 2019, Christine Martinez’s mates despatched congratulations. She had labored carefully with the founders of the digital pinboard in its earliest days, and her mates thought she would get wealthy alongside them.

But as Pinterest’s inventory value rose, turning its founders into billionaires, Ms. Martinez realized she wouldn’t be compensated or credited for her contributions, she mentioned.

On Monday, she sued.

In a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court, Ms. Martinez accused Ben Silbermann and Paul Sciarra, two of Pinterest’s three co-founders, of breach of implied contract, concept theft, unjust enrichment and unfair enterprise practices. Ms. Martinez created Pinterest alongside Mr. Silbermann and Mr. Sciarra, the lawsuit mentioned, contributing concepts that had been “core organizing concepts,” comparable to organizing photos on boards and enabling e-commerce.

Ms. Martinez, 40, was by no means formally employed by Pinterest, nor did she ask for a contract. She was not given inventory, although she mentioned Pinterest’s founders had verbally agreed to compensate her many instances.

Ms. Martinez argued that she and the founders had an implied contract, primarily based on their discussions. Pinterest even named a piece of its supply code after her, in keeping with the grievance. And she was such shut mates with the co-founders that she introduced them each house for Christmas and was a bridesmaid in Mr. Silbermann’s wedding ceremony.

“I always expected that when they could compensate me, they would,” she mentioned, including that she had been naïve. “There was never a doubt in my mind.”

A Pinterest spokeswoman mentioned in an announcement that Ms. Martinez’s allegations had been with out benefit and that the corporate would defend its place in court docket. We are proud of what we constructed at Pinterest and recognize all of the Pinners who’ve helped form the platform through the years,” she mentioned.

The lawsuit renews questions on whether or not Pinterest, which caters primarily to female users, is hostile to women and minorities in its workplace.

Starting in 2008, the year before Pinterest was founded, Mr. Silbermann and Mr. Sciarra sought Ms. Martinez’s advice on a wide range of concepts, from its name and features to its marketing strategy and product road map, according to the lawsuit.

Ms. Martinez had studied interior design, created a lifestyle blog and founded LAMA Designs, an e-commerce start-up. Even though LAMA’s business model worked and was showing promise, venture capitalists didn’t take her seriously, and she said she had struggled to raise money.

Yet funding for Pinterest, based on little more than an idea and Mr. Silbermann’s and Mr. Sciarra’s credentials, came easier. Ms. Martinez said she was eager to help her friends.

“They had no marketing background or expertise in creating a product for women,” she said. “My role was always to educate them.”

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Martinez gave the co-founders the idea of organizing images on “boards,” a core feature of the site; created its call-to-action phrase, “Pin it”; and established its main categories including home décor, fashion and D.I.Y. She also helped Mr. Silbermann persuade top design and lifestyle bloggers to use Pinterest and promote it. She took him to conferences, gathered feedback from the community and honed the pitch to them, she said.

Ms. Martinez said she realized she would not be compensated only after Pinterest went public in 2019.

Soon after, she said, a death in the family caused her to reflect on her life. That emboldened her to speak up about Pinterest.

“I couldn’t take this to my grave,” she said.

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