SAN FRANCISCO — It was about the users, and about productivity.
That’s what LinkedIn co-founder and chairman Reid Hoffman said today at TechCrunch Disrupt when asked about why his company decided to sell to Microsoft for $26.2 billion earlier this year.
Hoffman told the crowd on Tuesday in San Francisco that when he helped launch LinkedIn in 2003, the goal wasn’t to build a longstanding organization that lasted decades and decades, nor was it to be acquired by a tech giant like Microsoft.
“What you are really trying to do is something that actually makes a difference in hundreds of millions of people’s lives,” he explained. “You’re in service of the mission. The company, either as an independent or as a combined entity, is entirely in service of the mission. So there wasn’t really a specific thought on, ‘oh, I’m trying to create a company that is going to live ten years, 100 years, 1,000 years’ — or that ‘I’m hoping this company will combine.'”
Hoffman said his company decided that the “best way to create a lot of value in our members’ lives” — helping users connect with opportunities; helping them know how to invest in themselves; helping them find interesting work; helping them make deals; helping them make sales; etc. — was to combine with Microsoft, which made its largest acquisition ever when it agreed to buy LinkedIn.
“They make organizations productive; we make individuals productive,” he noted. “You essentially put those two things together.”
That’s similar to what LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner wrote about in a memo to employees explaining the decision to sell to Microsoft, which continues to operate LinkedIn as an independent brand. From the memo:
When [Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella] first proposed the idea of acquiring LinkedIn, he said it was absolutely essential that we had alignment on two things: Purpose and structure. On the former, it didn’t take long before the two of us realized we had virtually identical mission statements. For LinkedIn, it was to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful, and for Microsoft it was to empower every individual and organization in the world to achieve more. Essentially, we’re both trying to do the same thing but coming at it from two different places: For LinkedIn, it’s the professional network, and for Microsoft, the professional cloud.
Josh Elman, who joined LinkedIn as the company’s first product manager and is now a partner with Hoffman at Greylock Partners, also spoke on stage on Tuesday. When he first met Hoffman, the LinkedIn co-founder described his vision for the company.
“He painted the same picture: He said our job is to make individuals productive,” Elman recalled. “He said that we were trying to get to hundreds of millions of people and that every single worker will need a LinkedIn account. He said it with such a straight face that I believed him and decided to sign up. It’s amazing that it happened, and then some.”