The Power of Measurement: Lessons from Scaling Pinterest and the Matthew Effect


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 24, 2023

3 min read


The Power of Measurement: Lessons from Scaling Pinterest and the Matthew Effect


In the world of business and success, there are valuable lessons to be learned from both the scaling of Pinterest and the concept of the Matthew effect. These two seemingly unrelated topics shed light on the importance of measuring the right things and understanding the impact of starting conditions on long-term outcomes. By exploring these concepts, we can gain insights into how to navigate challenges, make strategic decisions, and ultimately achieve success.

Lesson 1: Measure the Right Thing

When it comes to measuring success, it's not just about tracking any metric. Pinterest learned this lesson when they shifted their focus from Monthly Active Users (MAUs) to increasing the number of new weekly active pinners. By measuring the core action of pinning or repinning something new each week, they were able to drive growth in a more meaningful way. This highlights the importance of measuring the right thing to ensure that your efforts are focused on the initiatives that truly matter.

Lesson 2: Org Structure Matters

Scaling a company requires more than just adding new team members. It requires a strategic evaluation of the organizational structure. Pinterest realized that execution problems often stem from two root causes: the wrong org structure or the wrong person in a particular role. While org changes can be painful and distracting, they are essential for a company to effectively execute its strategy. An org structure that aligns with the company's goals and minimizes unnecessary complexity acts as a catalyst for success.

Lesson 3: Embrace the Vocal Minority

Your most vocal users, those who loudly express their opinions and demands, can both bless and curse your company. While their feedback is valuable, it's important to remember that building for the next hundred million users requires a different approach. Facebook faced backlash when it introduced the newsfeed feature, but over time, it became an integral part of the product. The key is to listen to data, communicate with users, and be willing to ignore the vocal minority if the majority of users are pointing in a different direction. Building features based solely on user requests can result in a small, highly engaged user base, rather than broad, scalable adoption.

The Matthew Effect: Starting Conditions and Long-Term Outcomes

The Matthew effect, also known as cumulative advantage, explains how those who start with an advantage relative to others can retain that advantage over time. This concept is exemplified by authors Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, who experienced a surge in book sales when their true identities were revealed. Starting conditions matter, and as time goes on, they matter even more. This is evident in simulations where even a small initial advantage can lead to significant differences in final outcomes. While hard work is important, acknowledging the role of luck and happenstance can free us from judging ourselves solely based on outcomes and instead focus on our efforts.


In the pursuit of success, it is crucial to measure the right things, evaluate and adapt organizational structures, and recognize the impact of starting conditions. By incorporating these lessons from Pinterest's scaling journey and the Matthew effect, we can make more informed decisions, navigate challenges, and increase our chances of achieving long-term success.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Evaluate your key metrics and ensure they align with your core actions. Measure what truly drives growth and success for your business.
  • 2. Regularly review and adjust your organizational structure to ensure it supports your company's strategy and minimizes unnecessary complexity.
  • 3. Embrace feedback from your users, but also balance it with data-driven insights. Be willing to make strategic decisions that may go against the demands of your vocal minority.

Remember, success is not solely determined by where you start or what you measure, but by the strategic decisions you make and the efforts you put forth.

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