Reid Hoffman intentionally seeded the product with successful friends and connections recognising that cultivating an aspirational brand was crucial to drive mainstream adoption. (The entire company would have been doomed if there had been massive adoption of have-nots, instead of people who were hiring, recruiting etc.)
In 2003, the pecking order placed VCs at the summit so he refused to meet with potential investors until they adopted LI and ideally recruited their partners as well. Entrepreneurs and aspiring executives would follow their lead.
LinkedIn also deployed an Outlook contact uploader (very painful to build/support) to allow viral spread among professionals. Even today, nobody else has invested energy in this direction despite the 5-10x distribution per inviter you get from Outlook v. Webmail.
LinkedIn also intentionally deferred any features related to revenue or engagement until after the growth path was established, which took nearly 1.5 years.
Invitation reminders that expired after two weeks were another key feature.
Keith Rabois worked at LinkedIn from 2005 to 2007. He is now EVP of strategy and business development at Slide.This post was originally published as an answer on Q&A startup Quora and is re-published here with Keith’s permission.
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