$1.5 Billion Worth Idea in 24 Hours

Silicon Valley is a place where people arrive to try their luck with their innovative ideas and business concepts. But it is not always necessary to invent something to be a success. One could just look around and find something to enhance and/or mash up.

There is an exemplary concept called a Pinstagram which we found very interesting. We had the opportunity to have a brief interview with one of authors of the Pinstagram idea Pek Pongpaet during one of events in the Valley. We asked him a few questions about the story behind the concept and its implementation.

Pek Pongpaet - one of Pinstagram authors

Pek, could you tell me how you came up with the idea of creating a service like Pinstagram?

I enjoy using Instagram, but the problem is that the service is not optimized for the experience on big screen web browsers and desktop, so the maximum you can do is to use it on your iPhone. This is really frustrating! Also the recent events in the market showed a growing interest in such projects.

Pinstagram logo

When we were talking about VC pitches with my partner Brandon, especially about those that go “We are X for Y” (something like “We are Facebook for schools”), we came up with an idea of the “We are a Pinterest for Instagram” pitch which we thought would be funny because these were two of the hottest companies. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. As many other users I enjoyed Pinterest and I thought it was just what I needed.

Pinstagram application

So I had made it my week-end project and spent a few hours to build a prototype. I just started putting together the Pinterest layout right away, picking up the Instagram API and playing with it and I was able to get a basic prototype working. Finally I could get the most popular photos from Instagram using their API to show up on a Pinterest-like UI. When I showed it to Brandon it was easy to convince him that it was a good idea as he really liked it. So we started to make it real together.

What technologies did you use?

The application is built on Ruby and Sinatra. We do not even have our own database. The frontend uses Twitter Bootstrap.

Many people will hate me for not writing HTML from scratch, but I prefer building a "house" using what is already made, you know, like shelves and panels instead of having to go to a forest and cut wood.

We built the interface using Masonry which is a very handy jQuery plugin. And of course the Instagram API (by the way very well documented and easy to use) made it possible to implement the concept.

Pinstagram - mashup of Instagram and Pinterest

How much time did you spend on it?

Well, we worked over a week-end and by the end of it we had a prototype allowing us to log in the system, view photos, see popular ones and use the search tool. So we spent approximately 24 hours.

You moved here to the Valley from Chicago. How do you feel here? And what can you tell people with ideas who are just starting to think about their startups?

There is a culture here which cannot be found anywhere else. I can tell those who already have ideas but have no opportunity to bring them to life, do not abandon your ideas. A web product needs much more than just the ability to write code.

I am a designer. For me everything starts with a design. If I’ve got an idea, I start with a design. I have some development skills, but I do not have to bother with development from scratch by my own. What is important is that something you cannot do should not stop you. I launched a lot of projects even without having special knowledge. Usually I manage to persuade someone to help me or I pay for the work or become a partner with someone.

Brandon agreed to help me with Pinstagram only after I had showed him the prototype. I do not think he would have taken me seriously had there been no prototype. As soon as he saw the prototype and understood it was worth it, he agreed to be my partner in this project.

Pinstagram screenshot

I've seen a lot of ideas and businesses that were started not by those who are selling the product right now. For example, the initial version of Groupon was built on one of WordPress plug-ins. Just use skills and opportunities that you’ve got. If you can write code – write it, if you are in design then do the design.

Do what you can do the best at the beginning. Use it to show to others. If you have a good idea, just start to make it real with what you’ve got.