(CN) — Pinterest, one of the most successful image-sharing social media applications, cut out its female co-creator so the three male founders could reap profits and prestige, according to a lawsuit filed in California state court.
Christine Martinez says she helped Paul Sciarra and Ben Silberman focus Pinterest on visual narratives that could be inspirational for users but received virtually nothing for her foundational contribution for a company currently valued at approximately $35 billion.
Martinez filed the complaint in Alameda County Superior Court, saying two of the three founders used her creative marketing experience to forge a new digital product but did not share the profits once the company went public, despite raking in about $2 billion from themselves.
“This case will tell the real story of how Pinterest was created,” Martinez says in her complaint. “At Pinterest’s inception, plaintiff set forth its vision and value proposition, and developed and implemented a first of its kind grassroots digital marketing strategy.”
Martinez said it was her marketing experience that allowed the company to find its vision as the other three founders, which included computer scientist Evan Sharp, lacked the relevant experience.
“They took for themselves all the credit for creating Pinterest, and denied any plaintiff any share in the value her ideas created, simply because they thought they could,” Martinez says in her complaint, which names Pinterest, Sciarra and Silberman as defendants.
Martinez says there was a handshake agreement between the founders and herself that they went back on after the public offering, which generated about $14 billion for the company in the first day — a figure that has since grown exponentially.
The relationship between Sciarra, Silbermann and Martinez was not always sour. The founders apparently included her name in a line of code, according to the complaint, and multiple reports indicate Martinez was a bridesmaid in Silbermann's wedding.
But things have clearly changed in the relationship between Martinez and the company, which is heavily skewed toward female customers as its client base.
“Pinterest and its top executives made billions of dollars, yet they have not paid her a dime," Hogan Lovells partner Courtney Devon Taylor said in a statement reported by Business Insider. "She intends to stand up for herself. Pinterest fans would expect nothing less.”
A Pinterest spokesperson did not return a request for comment by press time.
Martinez seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as an accounting and disgorgement on claims of breach of implied contract, idea theft, conversion and unfair business practices.Follow @@MatthewCRenda
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.