Careers at LinkedIn
LinkedIn's mission is to help professionals connect globally. They do this by providing a platform where their users may receive access to people, jobs, and news relevant to their professional area.
LinkedIn also seeks to ensure this platform is attractive for advertisers, who generate most of their revenue.
Reid Hoffman had already previously worked on the board of SocialNet, an early social network, and was a key member of Paypal, where he served as COO and Vice-President before it was acquired by eBay. He founded LinkedIn in 2002 with a few other former colleagues from SocialNet, including Allen Blue. By May 2003, their website was online as the first business-centered social network.
User-growth was rapid, and by August 2004, LinkedIn had hit 1 million users. Over the following years they added services such as LinkedIn for Groups, and premium LinkedIn Business Accounts. By 2007, they had 10 million users and had established themselves as the world's best-known professional networking site.
In 2008, the LinkedIn mobile app was released, providing a new channel through which members could use the platform. They continued to add more features to the site and generally improve the user experience
In the same year, Sequoia Capital bought a 5% stake in LinkedIn for $53 million, giving the company an estimated valuation of around $1 billion.
In 2011, LinkedIn went public, with shares selling at $45 during its initial public offering. Share prices doubled within a day and the company was valued at $8.9 billion. LinkedIn proceeded to expand the services on their website, acquiring a number of web programs to integrate into its site. These include slideshow app SlideShare, purchased in 2012 for $119 million, and Pulse, a news app. Their largest acquisition to date was when they spent $1.5 billion acquiring Lynda, an online learning platform, in 2015.
In 2014, a Chinese version of the site opened, as the company continued its expansion in international markets. By May of that year, the site had 300 million users, a growth aided by the popularity of the mobile app.
In February 2016, LinkedIn share prices dropped by 43.6% in one day following the publication of a report revealing a large drop in earnings. Later that year, it was announced that Microsoft intends to acquire LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.
Since its rapid early user growth, LinkedIn has proved resilient in maintaining its status as the web's dominant professional social network. Competitors, such as Facebook's Facebook at Work (released in 2015) have failed to significantly dent its market share, and it continues to enjoy around 400 million users.
Business model of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a mult-sided platform, meaning that it offers different services to a range of customer segments. It operates on a so called “freemium” business model, whereby its main services are free, but users may pay for a premium service with extra features. LinkedIn therefore has four key customer segments:
- Regular users, who use the site for free but still help generate advertising revenues
- Premium users, whose annual subscription fees constitute a large portion of LinkedIn's revenue.
- Marketing professionals, who pay to use LinkedIn as an advertising platform.
- Recruitment professionals, who pay to use the various premium services that LinkedIn offers headhunters.
For regular users, it offers a free service that helps people working in all different fields to develop a network of contacts and help manage their professional identity.
For premium users who pay the membership fees, LinkedIn offers the same thing, but with the addition of a range of other services that can help individuals manage, analyze and develop their professional lives.
Advertisers are drawn to LinkedIn, because, like most social networks, they can offer a high rate of user interaction with adverts, by tailoring them towards individual users personal and professional interests.
Recruiters using LinkedIn's premium talent-finding features are drawn to LinkedIn because, with its hundreds of millions of users, it provides an unparalleled compendium of professionals around the world where headhunters may search for employees with the specific skills they require.
The website linkedin.com is LinkedIn's primary channel but in recent years its mobile app has also proved extremely popular. This online platform is also where ad revenue is generated and where users may purchase premium subscriptions.
A key channel for its recruitment products is field sales, as LinkedIn employs many teams and agencies to advertise and promote its services to recruiters around the world. About half of its recruitment products are sold through field sales.
LinkedIn's focus is not on cultivating personal relationships with its sites users, but enabling them to cultivate relationships with users of the platform. LinkedIn's relationship with its free and premium users is largely automated. LinkedIn provides a platform that gives them all the tools they need for their networking needs. They take subscription fees from premium users and also target users with sponsored content to generate advertising revenue.
For advertisers and headhunters, LinkedIn offers a range of more personalized services to help them reach people with the qualities they are looking for.
Platform development and field sales are LinkedIn's key activities.
LinkedIn invests substantially in ensuring their networking platform is reliable, efficient and user-friendly. All they have to do is ensure this, and professionals the world over will continue to flock to LinkedIn.
The other key activity, which generates around half of all sales, is their field sales of their recruitment products. They do this with a direct sales force, but also through partnering with other agencies to expand their global marketing reach.
LinkedIn's key partners include the content providers who own the content that users may link to from their profile. Third part content greatly enhances the user experience on LinkedIn, so these are important partners.
Another key partner is Equinix, who manage the datacenters that are crucial to LinkedIn's functioning. Equinix is the world's largest provider of datacentre services, and LinkedIn relies on their services rather than maintaining their own datacenters in-house.
LinkedIn's key resource are its people and the platform it has developed. With offices in 30 cities, LinkedIn employs about 6000 full time staff. Amongst these are a lot of very experienced software engineers who help create the LinkedIn platform.
LinkedIn's largest expenditures are web hosting, marketing and field sales, and the maintenance and improvement of the platform.
LinkedIn's revenue comes from selling its hiring solutions products, selling premium subscriptions, and advertising.
The sale of hiring solutions has historically comprised about 50% of LinkedIn's revenue, although advertising income has grown to be an almost equally important revenue stream in the last few years.
Premium subscription fees normally constitute about 20% of LinkedIn's annual revenue.
info: Reid was a Marshall Scholar at Wolfson College, Oxford, where he earned an MA in Philosophy. He went on to work for Apple and then SocialNet. At both companies he was instrumental in creating what were some of the earliest social networks. He was also a key player in the creation and early development of Paypal. When eBay acquired this company in 2002, he found himself with the capital to start LinkedIn. He served as CEO until handing over to Dan Nye upon switching to Executive Chairman in 2006. Having provided seed money for numerous successful tech-startups, he is also renowned as one of Silicon Valley's most successful angel investors and is the co-author of New York Times bestseller The Alliance in which he shares his managerial insights.
info: After acquiring a BSC in Economics from the Wharton business school at the University of Pennsylvania, Jeff Weiner eventually went on to a distinguished career at Yahoo, eventually becoming Executive Vice-President of their network division after holding several senior roles there. He took over from Dan Nye as CEO of LinkedIn in 2008.
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