The LinkedIn Story

As LinkedIn turns 15, we look back at how they have established themselves as a social media powerhouse


Yesterday, LinkedIn celebrated its 15th birthday - cementing 15 years as the world's largest professional network. Over this time they have consistently managed to succinctly marry society's fixation on social media with networking. Today, LinkedIn boasts more than 546 million users from across the globe, according to Omnicore. 3 million people share content on the site weekly and they employ 12,676 people. There's no signs of them slowing yet. So, as they celebrate their 15 years, we look back over how they grew into the powerhouse they are today:

Humble beginnings

LinkedIn started in late 2002 when Reid Hoffman CBE recruited colleagues from SocialNet and Paypal to work on the project. They launched six months later in 2003. While they initially experienced as little as twenty people signing up every day, they hit the 100,000 member mark in early 2004 as they began to be more experimental with what they offered. The introduction of address book uploads saw subscriptions skyrocket. They also began to partner with American Express to promote their site to small business owners.


In 2005, they moved into their fourth office in three years and reached over 1,500,000 members. They also introduced their first business lines: Jobs and Subscriptions. Before the year was out they surpassed 4,000,000 members. 2006 saw the launch of public profiles as LinkedIn began to solidify it's claim as the most established professional profile of record. They also achieved profitability, and introduced key features like 'People You May Know'. After four years as CEO Reid stepped aside to run product in 2007 and Dan Nye took the CEO position. By the end of that year they had nearly hit 17,000,000 members. In 2008, LinkedIn officially went global after opening its first international office in London. They also introduced Spanish and French language versions of the site. They hit over 30,000,000 members by the end of the year.


2010 saw unprecedented growth for LinkedIn as they reached 90 million members and nearly 1,000 employees in 10 offices around the world. They opened up the company to the stock market in 2011. 2012 saw a complete transformation to the website into the design we see today. When LinkedIn turned 10 in 2013, they had reached more than 224 million members, and were growing at a rate of two members per second.

Slump and Microsoft Takeover

In February 2016, LinkedIn revealed that it forecasted weaker growth for the year than expected. The news wasn’t received well - shares plummeted by 40% and ultimately fell from around the $225 mark at the beginning of 2016 to close to $100 just a month later. The huge downturn posed a greater problem than displeased investors, too, given that LinkedIn’s employees are largely paid in stock. There had been serious concerns about the company’s ability to hold down its key talent, and some problematic financial reporting had the company in something of a rough patch.

In June of that year, Microsoft announced plans to acquire LinkedIn. The reported value of $26.2 billion made it the largest acquisition made by Microsoft to date (for a sense of scale that's $220 for each of LinkedIn’s monthly active users according to the New York Times.) This was a deal that was heavily criticized, the New York Times reporting that the deal ‘puts LinkedIn’s enterprise value at 79 times the social network’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or Ebidta, of the 12 months that ended on March 31.’ Yet, two years later, LinkedIn are still going strong. And what's more, it's become more than a social network for job hunting. It has established itself as a leading content sharing site.

Data Analytics and LinkedIn

Data analytics has been instrumental to the success of linkedIn. Current CEO Jeff Weiner once said that, “Our ultimate dream is to develop the world’s first economic graph, a sort of digital map of skills, workers and jobs across the global economy. Ambitions, in other words, that are a far cry from the industry’s early stabs at modernizing the old-fashioned jobs board.” As such, big data analytics has formed the backbone of their success and it is something at which they have become extremely proficient. This has manifested itself both through their outward-facing offerings and their internal processes. They last year introduced their 'Talent Insights' function - a self-service, big data analytics product that enables recruiters to make deeper queries into statistics for hiring and employment, based on LinkedIn data.

You can find out more about how LinkedIn uses data analytics in this presentation by Tushar Shanbhag, Head of Data Products, LinkedIn:

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