On Friday I’ll be attending an all-day workshop on “How Ideas Scale” hosted by Plexus Institute. In thinking about that, I also began thinking about how LinkedIn scaled. (I worked at LinkedIn in its first few years.)
LinkedIn now has 35,000,000+ registered users and continues to grow rapidly. This is a big number, but not as big as Facebook or MySpace. And yet because LinkedIn has focused from the beginning on providing value to professionals, the comparison with more social sites like Facebook isn’t so valid. Getting 35 million busy professionals to participate is a big achievement.
LinkedIn began in early May of 2003. At that time there were other professionally-focused social network sites that had a head start and were much better funded. None of those companies are now anywhere near as successful as LinkedIn.
Here’s my take on how LinkedIn scaled:
- Brought together a team of executives who had all worked with the principal founder, (and largely with each other) in previous Internet startups.
- Kept the site simple and focused; didn’t overbuild, stuck to the knitting.
- Gained its initial 5000 members almost immediately from the personal connections of the founders’ own personal connections.
- A huge percentage of the first year’s members were influential social network early adopters who were primed to use the site for professional purposes.
- From the first day there was an in-place data analytics strategy that enabled the company to measure effects and fine-tune the site design.
- Stayed focused on its goals of growth, revenue, and usage as measures of value to users, as well as to shareholders.