How LinkedIn's founder got started

Reid Hoffman talks about his path from academia to social media.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
Interview by Alyssa Abkowitz, reporter

reid_hoffman.03.jpg
Reid Hoffman, founder of social networking site LinkedIn
Help wanted: Work site
With unemployment hovering around 10%, the subscriber rate at professional networking site LinkedIn has soared. In less than two years the number of users has grown from 14 million to 43 million. "The recession hasn't been bad for us," Hoffman says. "And we're helping people."

(Fortune Magazine) -- My dad wouldn't let me have a computer because he didn't think it was relevant. I was in college before I actually got one. I think if he knew then what he knows now, I would have had one much earlier.

But I've always had an interest in how we improve people's ecosystems -- whether it's civics or education or economics. When I was an undergrad at Stanford, I thought the way to do that was to be an academic. Then I saw that wasn't the right way, because you become a scholar and publish in an area where only, like, 50 people will read it.

Find ways to reach people.
How do you change lives for millions of people? At Oxford [as a graduate student in philosophy] I decided software entrepreneurship was the way.

I came back to Silicon Valley and worked for Apple and then Fujitsu before starting Socialnet, an early social-networking site. After a while I didn't agree with the direction it was going, so I talked to Peter [Thiel, co-founder of PayPal], whom I knew from Stanford. He said, "Come join us. Help us at PayPal."

Improve users' lives.
What I realized before PayPal was sold was that there was going to be a confluence of two forces.

One was how the world of work is changing -- every individual is now somewhat entrepreneurial. They're getting the next gig themselves.

The other was the Internet, which could empower all these individuals to establish profiles online so that people can find them. You'd be able to use your network to get access to people to better chart your path.

I started LinkedIn because changing people's professional lives is a massive transformation. In 2003 we got financing from Sequoia Capital, and we started to get more and more people into our service. Everyone began to realize the value. That's when I was, like, "This could work."

Secrets of my success

• It's okay to be brief
When people ask me about work/life balance, I just laugh. But I try to be time-efficient by scheduling meetings in appropriate increments --15 minutes or less sometimes. I've also tried to build a culture that understands writing brief e-mails is not emotional coldness.

• Be willing to change course
Entrepreneurs tend to believe, "I've got my idea, I'll go until I die." But I advise them to take seriously the questions about whether their [business] plan is irredeemably flawed and whether they need to change what they're doing. Be diligent about failing fast so that you don't spend five years doing something that's just going to fail.

• Don't be a perfectionist
I frequently tell Internet entrepreneurs, "If you're not somewhat embarrassed by your 1.0 product launch, then you've released too late." There's value in launching early, getting engaged with customers, and learning from them. That can direct your progress. To top of page

Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.13 -0.26 -1.59%
Facebook Inc 59.72 0.63 1.07%
Yahoo! Inc 36.35 -0.02 -0.06%
Intel Corp 26.93 0.16 0.60%
Alcoa Inc 13.42 0.37 2.84%
Data as of Apr 16
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,424.85 162.29 1.00%
Nasdaq 4,086.23 52.06 1.29%
S&P 500 1,862.31 19.33 1.05%
Treasuries 2.64 0.00 0.00%
Data as of 8:30am ET
More Galleries
50 years of the Ford Mustang Take a drive down memory lane with our favorite photos of the car through the years. More
Cool cars from the New York Auto Show These are some of the most interesting new models and concept vehicles from the Big Apple's car show. More
8 CEOs who took a pay cut in 2013 Median CEO pay inched up 9% in 2013 to $13.9 million. But not everyone got a bump last year. Here are eight CEOs who missed out. More
Sponsors
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.