Pinterest has been one of the hottest startups of Silicon Valley over the past few years, but a report on Wednesday has raised an important question: Has the growth that persuaded investors to buy into its $11 billion valuation cooled off?
The content sharing firm said it has 100 million monthly active users, according to a report by the Ringer. Though the vast size of that community remains impressive, it also suggests Pinterest has not experienced much growth over the past year. That's because the company quoted the same figure to The New York Times last September.
Pinterest denies that growth has plateaued.
UPDATE: Pinterest said in an Oct.13 press release that its number of monthly users had grown to 150 million.
"We're continuing to experience strong user growth, but we haven't made an update to our public user number (which is normal for a private company)," a company spokeswoman told Inc. on Wednesday. She added that Pinterest plans to update its active user total "soon," and that there will be a "notable" uptick in that figure.
That may be the case, but not updating user figures for more than a year is typically a problematic sign when it comes to young startups, whose eye-popping valuations are typically derived from their skyrocketing growth.
While Pinterest appears slow to reach the next milestone after 100 million users, many of its rivals in the online social space have experienced faster growth.
Instagram, for example, grew from 400 million monthly active users last September to 500 million this past June. Facebook Messenger grew from 700 million active users last June to more than one billion in July. And five-year-old Snapchat has reportedly gone from 100 million daily active users in May 2015 to 150 million this June, surging past seven-year-old Pinterest.
It's worth noting that Snapchat's figures are for daily users, which is an even more valuable metric than the monthly figure Pinterest has reported. (Most estimates put Snapchat's monthly figure somewhere far north of 200 million.) About the only social company that has kept pace with Pinterest is Twitter, whose user base actually fell from 316 million monthly actives last July to 313 million this July. From 2014 to 2015, Instagram saw 25 percent growth in users, Messenger 43 percent, Snapchat 50 percent, and Twitter a decline of 1 percent.
In 2014, Pinterest's active user base stood at 70 million, according to Forbes. That's year-to-year growth of 43 percent from 2014 to 2015. Should Pinterest's next user report be less than 125 million, it will have failed to keep pace with its competitors.
Pinterest's "growth rate is steady, but not on a rapid trajectory," said Debra Aho Williamson, principal social media analyst for eMarketer, a market research firm. Williamson said that eMarketer's estimates show Pinterest growing at a rate similar to Twitter's. "While you might find it concerning that Pinterest and Twitter have similar usage, it's important to note that Pinterest's user count is also similar to Snapchat's."
Pinterest remains one of Silicon Valley's most promising companies, especially when it comes to its work in the areas of tech diversity, but if growth is slowing and revenue targets are not being met, investors may have to start worrying.