Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Energy of Linkedin Team and listening to the market

I attended Lunch2.0 at Linkedin last week. I love the energy of startup teams, so needless to say that I could associate a face to linkedin which is a product I love and use a lot, was exciting.

Couple of surprises!

- Linkedin has 11 million users and has 100 employees. As an entrepreneur the number of employees in a company and who does what always fascinates me. Linkedin started out as a consumer platform and after a period of lull, added cool UI features and downloads. It has not splashed dollars on much PR, and it shows in the organic growth and the type of excited marketing people they have.

There was contagious energy in the room from the linkedin team, adding to the fact that Guy Kawasaki and Justin Kan of were there.

- Allen, co-founder and the VP of Products spoke about their vision of the product and was open to hear market feedback. One fascinating observation is that linkedin product folks thought we should not connect to anyone we do not absolutely know as the spirit of the product was to help the consumer connect with maybe 100 people they know well. I respect the privacy of anyone who does not want to add everyone to their network, I do not seek out strangers to connect, but thought bulk of linkedin was built on strangers connecting to reach into each other's networks.

This prompts me to write here because startups start with a vision to solve a problem, products are built, but companies take a life of their own with two factors pulling them outbound and shaping them to the business they evolve into -
1. Customers who pay, drive the attention and resources of the company. In linkedin there was a huge business operations group which brings revenues.

2. Marketing, focusing on viral play, especially for successful web products drive viral features. Linkedin grew virally only because people could invite others so easily with their support for uploading outlook calendars and because recruiters contact strangers to connect to their networks to expand the reach of their linkedin networks.

The day before lunch2.0, I was at Shally Steckerl's presentation at HRCA at Y!. I went to learn the recruiter's market and understand their needs and pains. Shally gave an amazing presentation showing tools and technique for recruiters to find their candidates. Shally was an expert search engine user and I learnt a lot.

Shally is a linkedin fan and gave his email for all to connect to him on linkedin saying he could reach 7 million of the 11 million linkedin users. During the weekend I was at TIECON where a Y! VP after a panel told a swarming crowd that he would accept all linkedin invitations. So I don't know but I suddenly keep hearing about linkedin as a way of life.

Its evangelists like Shally who drive the user adoption of linkedin and recruiters who pay as customers.

I left with the feeling that the 100 people of linkedin were hungry and looking to scale much larger and think of their product as nimble and in early stages than 11 million of us see it in our daily lives.

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