Like many startups, LinkedIn had its share of problems when it first started out.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Andy Kessler, LinkedIn’s founder and CEO Reid Hoffman explains that when LinkedIn was getting off the ground, some companies resisted the business-oriented social network, even banning their employees from using the site.
One of those companies was Nokia.
“In the very early days, Nokia banned LinkedIn because they said your title was company internal information so you couldn’t publish that,” Hoffman says.
But employees found away around their company’s regulations, he says. “To show you the power of the networks, 22 people resigned and usage at Nokia continued at the exact same rate as it was before. Employees would just use it at home.”
Human resource departments liked that LinkedIn made it possible to find new talent, but they didn’t want their own employees touting their accomplishments and making themselves visible to others. “They would prefer their own employees are completely undiscoverable to the world,” Hoffman says.
Even investment banks turned off access to LinkedIn, citing compliance issues as the reason. But employees again found a way around this, Hoffman says. “People would go home and use it in the evening.”
Things have certainly changed for the company since the early days — when it first started in 2003 it had around 4,500 members; it now boasts more than 300 million. And it seems to be staying on that path. Sales are approaching $US2 billion annually, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Hoffman says that LinkedIn is a two-way street: Companies should invest to keep their employees employable, and employees should work to keep their companies valuable and growing.
“What everyone knows is that when you hire someone, there is a good chance they will eventually work for someone else,” Hoffman said. “Employees know there is some chance the job they have will go away at some point. That doesn’t allow you to invest in the future. You need to keep employees progressing on their career.”