Creative director sues Pinterest founders claiming she helped build the site but never compensated

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A creative director is suing Pinterest claiming she helped found the site and make it a multi-billion dollar success - only to receive no money in return. 

Christine Martinez, 40, filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court on Monday accusing the site's owners Ben Silbermann, 39, and Paul Sciarra, 40, of breach of implied contract, idea theft, unjust enrichment and unfair business practices. 

She alleges that she co-created the social media platform and made it clear she expected to receive money if her ideas were used. 

'I realized that for me, IPO was the day I got passed over,' she said. 'I was passed over for the money, the recognition, the credit.' 

Pinterest, which allows users to 'bookmark' images for inspiration on popular topics cooking, home decor and clothing, went public on April 18, 2019 raising about $1.4 billion, and giving the firm a valuation of $14 billion. 

Martinez says that many of her friends congratulated her when the company went public knowing that had collaborated on the earliest stages of the creation and assumed she would be receiving something for her work. 

Christine Martinez, 40, is suing Pinterest co-founders for breach of implied contract, idea theft, unjust enrichment and unfair business practices claiming that she helped create and develop integral parts of the platform but was never compensated

Pinterest co-founders Ben Silbermann (left) and Paul Sciarra (right) are being sued by their former unofficial creative director 

But Martinez claims she was never compensated or recognized once the company took off. 

'They divided up among themselves $2 billion of the $14 billion in equity value that Pinterest generated the day it went public, and never paid Plaintiff a single dollar,' the complaint alleges. 'They erased Plaintiff from the history of Pinterest's creation.' 

Silbermann has a net worth of $3.1 billion and Sciarra has a net worth of $2.6 billion, according to Forbes. Silbermann currently serves as the company's CEO. Sciarra left the company in 2012 but held on to about 8 per cent of the company. He currently serves as executive chairman of Joby Aviation. 

Martinez is seeking payment for her work in an unspecified amount. 

Martinez was never officially employed by the company and never asked for a contract but she says that Pinterest's founders had verbally agreed to compensate her many times. She claims that she had an implied contract based on her discussions with the co-founders. 

In the lawsuit, she alleges that she created Pinterest with Silbermann and Sciarra suggesting ideas that became 'core organizing concepts' to the platform such as organizing images on boards, using the phrase 'Pin it,' categorizing the apps main uses such as home décor, fashion and D.I.Y., and enabling e-commerce, which allows users to buy items they see pinned and generates a lucrative stream of revenue for Pinterest. 

The suit even claims that Pinterest named a section of its source code after her. Martinez says that she began helping Silbermann and Sciarra in 2008 when they began conceptualizing the platform. 

She says she went on to promote the company on Good Morning America, developed a training class for brands 'in consultation with Silbermann and Sciarra,' and guided them on how to better appeal to women- the app's main demographic.  

Pinterest went public in 2019 raising about $1.4 billion making Silbermann and Sciarra billionaires. That was when Martinez says she realized she was being 'erased' 

The lawsuit argues that the co-founders repeatedly used Martinez for her ideas and connections to build the company. 'They had no marketing background or expertise in creating a product for women,' she said. 'My role was always to educate them.' 

Martinez studied interior design, developed a lifestyle blog, and founded e-commerce start-up LAMA Designs. 

Martinez and her husband had close friendships with Silbermann and Sciarra.

They took them home with her for Christmas, with Martinez also standing as a bridesmaid in Silbermann's wedding. She says she never expected her friends to snub her and didn't even realize that she was being 'erased' until after the company went public and Silbermann and Sciarra became billionaires while she never received anything.

After the company went public, Martinez lost someone in her family. The death of her loved one pushed Martinez to stand up for herself and file the suit. 'I couldn't take this to my grave,' she said.

A Pinterest spokeswoman said in a statement that the allegations made by Martinez were unwarranted and that the company plans to defend its co-founders 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.

This is not the first time Pinterest has been sued for their treatment of women. Last summer two former female employees, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, tweeted about their time at the company recounting the pay disparities, retaliation and sexist, racist comments they endured. 

Soon after the tweets went viral, Pinterest’s former chief operating officer, Francoise Brougher, sued the company for gender discrimination and retaliation. In December, Pinterest paid Brougher $22.5 million and donated $2.5 million to charities for women and minorities in tech.

That same month, the company was sued by its shareholders claiming that top executives ignored allegations of discrimination and fostered a 'toxic' work place.  

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