No matter how you look at it, LinkedIn is one of the stand-out Valley success stories.
It has forever changed how we find jobs and network with business colleagues. Jeff Weiner is ranked as the best CEO in the nation, according one rating service, and cofounder Reid Hoffman is a Valley A-lister, worth almost $US4 billion.
But it wasn’t always like this. LinkedIn was founded in December 2002, with a couple handfuls of people. And a few months after it launched on May 5, 2013, it was in danger of being a bomb.
People weren’t joining the service, until Hoffman “sat down with the team and said, if we don’t solve this, we’re dead.” They came up with one idea: let people upload their email address books to see which of their friends had joined.
Thankfully that worked, the site went viral, and today it’s a $US25 billion company with 313 million members in over 200 countries, and an employer of 5,700.
Lee Hower was part of LinkedIn's founding team in 2002. Today he's a venture capitalist at a firm he cofounded, NextView Ventures, which specialises in seed rounds.
LinkedIn wasn't the first wildly successful tech companies he joined early. He was also an early employee of PayPal in product and business development roles, staying through the 2002 IPO and sale to eBay.
He left PayPal to join LinkedIn as head of corporate development, staying until 2004, when LinkedIn was very young, but starting to gain traction.
Chris Saccheri was part of the founding team of LinkedIn, responsible for building the website, a task he worked at for almost nine years.
He rose to the rank of director of web development, managing a team of 30. Since LinkedIn is, at its heart, a website, a lot of the credit for its success was due to Saccheri, his colleagues say.
Today, he's a full-time, stay-at-home dad for his two kids. He describes the job: 'Responsibilities include reading books, leading outings to parks/libraries/zoos, setting limits, making up stories, supervising science projects, volunteering at school ...'
Ian McNish also joined LinkedIn in 2002 as a founding member and spent the next 10 years building the network and data centres that would eventually support millions of LinkedIn users.
He stayed at the job 10 years, leaving in May of last year to officially join Box, although he'd already been acting as Box's technical adviser.
He's also become a mentor in 500 Startups and is an active angel investor.
He describes his first day at LinkedIn like this:
'As part of the founding team, my first day in our 'office' was in serial entrepreneur Reid Hoffman's apartment. We didn't have a brand name, prototypes, company-owned or operated computers and we were in a market that had yet to be defined.'
Yan Pujante joined LinkedIn before it had a name, too, to build the website.
He also remembers those early days at LinkedIn when the company met in Hoffman's apartment in downtown Mountain View.
'We had no office. We did not even have a name for the company (I am so glad we did not pick 'getin.com,' which was on the shortlist!),' he described in a blog post.
He worked his way up to the top of the engineering ranks and left in 2010 after eight years, just before the IPO.
He says, 'I tried to be a manager for a while, and I realised that it is not something I enjoy very much.'
Today he says he's taking time off and working on a 'secret' project.
Stephen Beitzel started at LinkedIn as a software developer, but he didn't stay long. He left in 2004 when the company was still tiny. He went to another hot up-coming company: Netflix.
He kept his LinkedIn stake, selling $US1.3 million worth in the IPO, the New York Times reported. The rest of it was worth $US17 million opening day and, if he kept it, would be worth about double now.
After the IPO, he left Netflix and went on sabbatical.
He calls himself a Domestic Infrastructure Support Technician (i.e. a family man), on his LinkedIn profile, which sounds an awful lot like a retirement job. And he really does play the bagpipes.
Sarah Imbach was not one of the folks hanging out in Hoffman's apartment. She joined LinkedIn in 2004, about a year after the website launched when it was still tiny, about 25 employees. A lot of the founding team left that year.
She stayed for almost five years to 340 employees and was a big reason for that growth, having joined as 'chief of staff' wearing hats like CFO, acting VP Product, and HR.
She worked up to VP of revenue and customer operations before being recruited by Anne Wojcicki to become COO of Wojcicki's genetics testing startup 23andMe in 2008, a job she left in 2010.
Today she's focused on angel investing, giving 'both my time and direct investment,' she says on her LinkedIn profile.
Cofounder Konstantin Guericke was vice president of marketing and led LinkedIn's marketing from its earliest days until it became profitable in 2006.
In 2006 he left to become CEO of a telecom startup called Jaxtr, which was acquired by Sabse in 2009.
Today he's a partner in Earlybird Venture Capital and a mentor for his alma mater, Stanford. As an engineering alum, he guides other engineering students with their startup ideas.
'My proudest professional accomplishment so far is cofounding LinkedIn, but I also believe you learn at least as much from startups that didn't work out as well,' he writes in his LinkedIn profile.
Eric Ly had cofounded a string of startups before he cofounded LinkedIn as CTO.
That list included a startup that went from $US0 to $US10 million in annual revenue in four years before being acquired (Netmosphere bought in 1999 by Critical Path).
At LinkedIn, Ly worked on a lot of the core features that helped you find your friends on the site, including the search algorithm and that cool feature that ties LinkedIn to Outlook.
He left in 2006 to found another startup, Presdo, an app that helps attendees of events meet and network.
LinkedIn cofounder Jean-Luc Vaillant was vice president of engineering and took over the CTO title after Eric Ly left.
LinkedIn was actually Hoffman's second attempt at a social network. The first was a dating site called SocialNet that would not only find you a date but also did business networking and roommate matching. It could even find you a tennis partner. SocialNet was not a hit.
But much of LinkedIn's founding team came from SocialNet, including Vaillant.
He left LinkedIn in 2011, through the IPO. And according to his LinkedIn profile he hasn't dived into anything new yet.
David Eves was another SocialNet alum who hopped on when the SocialNet gang all got together to start LinkedIn
He didn't stay long at LinkedIn, either. He left in 2004 when the company was tiny, shortly before Sarah Imbach was hired.
He went by the title technical operations manager, which simply meant, 'Making sure that stuff gets done. Technical stuff.'
He's been working for himself as a consultant for the last decade, according to his LinkedIn profile. He also volunteers at the The American Bookbinders Museum, a fully-functional 19th-century-style bookbindery in San Francisco.
Allen Blue joined LinkedIn in 2002 as a cofounder and today is VP of product management.
He also was a former SocialNet alum. Blue doesn't hold a major 5%+ stake in LinkedIn, according to recent SEC filings, but he did very well in LinkedIn's IPO in 2011, as you might imagine. He cashed out of about $US9 million worth of stock.
He's currently focused on adding features that make people use the site daily, such as the news site, LinkedIn Today (now called Pulse), LinkedIn Groups, and LinkedIn's messaging and email products.
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