LinkedIn’s founder envisions Microsoft merger to enable an even better LinkedIn


There is still very little clarity on how the Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn will help the software giant. It seems however that LinkedIn’s founder Reid Hoffman, who owns 11% of the company and is still actively involved in its running, including being chairman of LinkedIn’s board, has a clear vision of how Microsoft can help LinkedIn.

Besides is role at LinkedIn Reid is also a well-liked Silicon Valley entrepreneur, being a partner at the venture firm Greylock, and advises numerous startups and nonprofits including Airbnb and Mozilla. He’s written two best-selling business books, and is working on a third. Though he’s chairman of LinkedIn’s board, he hasn’t had a job at the company since he appointed Jeff Weiner CEO seven years ago. But that hasn’t stopped Hoffman, who still owns 11% of LinkedIn’s shares, from showing up to work there almost every day.

In an interview with BackChannel he explained that he plans to help transform LinkedIn, which will continue to operate as an independent company, from the jobseekers’ front door that it has long been into the perfect path to future economic prosperity for all workers, especially the beleaguered middle class.

Reid felt a better LinkedIn was essential to help the work force, increasingly under threat from automation, keep up with technological progress.

“Does your workforce keep up? Does the middle class stay intact or grow? LinkedIn allows professionals, including the middle class, to invest in themselves in order to find the right jobs. That essentially can help make them prosperous.”

“The key thing for me has always been how we realize the mission?—?enabling every professional in the world to change their own economic curve by the strength of their alliances and connections with other people. That’s always been our true north,” he said.  “Combined with Microsoft, we can do so much more. We do a lot with companies and we enable companies and individuals to connect because it’s very valuable to both of them. But we start with the individual professional. Microsoft starts with the company?—?with helping the organization be productive. Putting those two things together amplifies both sides. It is somewhat of the classic peanut butter and chocolate combination, which is that it works really well together.”

He noted that Microsoft has an amazing stack of technology, and that for LinkedIn to really help Microsoft’s customers, the people doing work inside corporations, the level of integration has to be so deep that this just made more sense to merge than simply partner.

He envisioned a future where LinkedIn would offer every member a personal assistant for their career.

“Members could ask: what are the skills that are going to be really important to me in three to five years? What is the best way to develop those? Which courses both here and across the internet would be the right ones to do? Which would be the people in my network at one, two and three degrees that I should connect with? Which LinkedIn groups are the most valuable for doing that?”

Reid notes that by partnering with Microsoft, that kind of future goes from “oh well maybe someday we’ll do that” to “maybe we can start deploying technology on that very soon.”

He said in addition to LinkedIn being valuable in its own right, the combination with Microsoft could amplify a number of Microsoft’s strategies.

“It’s funny, one of the thing things that I remember my cofounders and I talking about literally the first month after we launched in ’03 was, ‘what is the thing we’d most like to have happen to accomplish our mission?’ It was integration in Outlook,” he said.

Read the full interview at Backchannel here.

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