Feeling a bit disconnected to the business world? LinkedIn wants to help. The firm operates an online professional network designed to help members find jobs, connect with other professionals, and locate business opportunities. The site has grown to reach more than 160 million users in some 200 countries since its launch in 2003. LinkedIn is free to join; it offers a paid premium membership with additional tools and sells advertising. It additionally earns revenue through its job listing service, which allows companies to post job openings and search for candidates on LinkedIn. Former CEO and current chairman Reid Hoffman co-founded the company, which filed to go public in 2011.
LinkedIn's public offering is significant in that, as the precursor to Facebook's IPO, it was the first major social networking company to file an IPO and was initially the biggest US Internet IPO since Google. Through the offering, LinkedIn raised more than $352 million. That figure was at the high end of underwriters' expectations and valued LinkedIn at about $4.25 billion. The company is using the proceeds for more investment, increasing its product development efforts, and expanding its sales organization in the US and internationally.
The IPO came during a period of rapid growth via the addition of new users. Total members have jumped from about 55 million in 2009 to its current figure of some 160 million. While this increase in membership caused revenue growth over the last four consecutive fiscal years, reaching revenues of more than $522 million in 2011, the company warned that it expects its growth rate to decline. It made only $11.9 million in 2011, down from about $15.4 million in 2010. The drop was due to higher income taxes and higher expenses (such as sales and marketing, product development, and general and administrative) associated with growing the business.
Continued growth efforts include acquisitions, such as the 2012 purchase of SlideShare for some $119 million. SlideShare is an application that allows users to share slide show presentations, and LinkedIn made the deal to strengthen its professional content offerings. In addition, the company has launched its Talent Pipeline offering, a new recruiter product. Mobile is another area of focus; in 2011 about 15% of member visits came from mobile, and mobile page views were up more than 300% year-over-year.
LinkedIn is also ramping up its international expansion activities, having experienced growth in India, Brazil, and China. About 60% of its member base comes from outside the US, and its service is available in languages such as French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. A reflection of its global focus, LinkedIn recently opened international offices in London, Mumbai, and Sydney. These operations add to its presence in Canada, Ireland, and the Netherlands.
Hoffman and his wife Michelle Yee control more than 40% of LinkedIn's total votes.