Pinterest was founded in March 2010 by Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp, and Paul Sciarra, according to the company’s website. In 2019, the company went public, raising $1.4 billion.
Christine Martinez’s friends congratulated her when Pinterest went public in 2019. Her friends assumed she would become wealthy alongside the digital pinboard’s founders because she had worked closely with them in its early days.
Martinez realized she would not be compensated or credited for her contributions as Pinterest’s stock price rose, making its founders billionaires, she said.
Martinez accused Silbermann and Sciarra of breach of implied contract, idea theft, unjust enrichment, and unfair business practices in a lawsuit filed in California’s Alameda County Superior Court on Monday.
Martinez sued the company for an unspecified sum.
According to the lawsuit, Martinez co-founded Pinterest with Silbermann and Sciarra, contributing ideas for “core organizing concepts” like organizing images on boards and enabling e-commerce.
Martinez, 40, was never hired by Pinterest and never requested a contract. She was not given stock, despite the fact that she claimed the founders of Pinterest had verbally agreed to compensate her numerous times.
Based on their discussions, Martinez claimed that she and the founders had an implied contract. According to the complaint, Pinterest even named a section of its source code after her.
She was so close to the co-founders that she brought them both home for Christmas and was a bridesmaid in Silbermann’s wedding.
“I always expected that when they could compensate me, they would,” she admitted, adding that she had been naïve. “There was never a doubt in my mind.”
In a statement, a Pinterest spokesperson stated that Martinez’s allegations were without merit and that the company would defend its position in court. “We are proud of what we built at Pinterest and appreciate all the Pinners who have helped shape the platform over the years,” she said.
The lawsuit raises new concerns about whether Pinterest, which is primarily used by women, is hostile to women and minorities in the workplace.
Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, two former Pinterest employees, wrote on Twitter last summer about pay disparities, retaliation, and sexist, racist comments they had received. Shortly after, Pinterest’s former chief operating officer, Francoise Brougher, filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging gender discrimination and retaliation.
In August of last year, Pinterest employees staged a virtual walkout to demand that the company increase the number of women and minorities in its top ranks and provide more transparency around promotion levels, retention, and pay.
Based on the lawsuit, Martinez gave the co-founders the idea of organizing images on “boards,” a core feature of the site; she coined the phrase “Pin it” as the site’s call-to-action; and she established the site’s main categories, which include home décor, fashion, and do-it-yourself.
She also assisted Silbermann in persuading top design and lifestyle bloggers to promote and use Pinterest. She said she took him to conferences, gathered feedback from the community, and fine-tuned his pitch for them.
She reflected on her life after a death in the family. That gave her the guts to speak out about Pinterest.