Expert offers planning tips after Pinterest co-founder departs

Start-up founders need to be realistic about how long they intend to stay with their business, an expert says, after Pinterest co-founder Paul Sciarra announced his departure from the company.


Based in the United States, Pinterest is a pinboard-style, photo-sharing website, allowing users to create and share theme-based image collections such as events, interests and hobbies.


Founded by Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp and Paul Sciarra, the site attracts 17 million unique visitors every month. However, Sciarra has announced he is leaving Pinterest.


“After lots of reflection and plenty of discussion with Ben and others, I’ve decided that now is a good time for me to step down formally from day-to-day involvement,” Sciarra wrote in a blog.

“I’ve accepted a role as an entrepreneur-in-residence at [US venture capital firm] Andreessen Horowitz.”


“I hope that eventually leads me back to doing what I’ve done for the past three-and-a-half years – namely, building cool things with awesome people with unexpected results.”


Sciarra was listed in regulatory documents from 2010 as president and chief executive of Pinterest, but it seems Silbermann has essentially taken on the role in recent months.


It’s not uncommon for start-ups to shed some of their early founders as they grow. Twitter, for example, saw most of its founding team step down last year.


Meanwhile, Naveen Selvadurai, co-founder of location-based social networking site Foursquare, has said he will be taking a back seat at the company he helped to create.


“After three years, I feel I’ve done all I can do and I’m moving on,” Selvadurai wrote in a blog.


Daily deals site LivingSocial is also making changes. In March, chief executive Tim O’Shaughnessy said co-founder Eddie Frederick is resigning from the company and its board.


According to Martin Nally, founder and managing director of recruitment firm hranywhere, deciding when to exit a start-up ultimately comes down to the “style” of the founder.


“There are a number of people who have fantastic ideas – they’re focused on the idea coming to life – until it becomes operational,” Nally says.


“Then they lose interest and ask, what’s the next big thing?”


According to Nally, all start-up founders need to “start with the end in mind”, which means being realistic about how long they plan to stay with the start-up after it launches.


He also believes founders need to assign themselves a specific role or risk becoming obsolete, saying the “founder” title can be restrictive.


“You’ve got to have a clear role… If it is only the start-up founder role, you can understand why people grow disinterested once it becomes operational,” he says.


“It comes down to asking yourself whether you are a founder-owner, founder-mentor, etc.”


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