Making the right global connections

Updated: 2014-10-17 07:18

By Meng Jing(China Daily USA)

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China is the key market for growth to take LinkedIn to next level, CEO says

Jeff Weiner has been determined not to hand out business cards ever since he joined LinkedIn. But that has not stopped LinkedIn Corp, the company he heads, from creating a steadily growing network of "knowledge workers", something that most experts feel will tip the scales in the global quest for talent.

Though he does not hand out business cards, Weiner is not shy about sharing his contact details. The chief executive officer of LinkedIn believes that those who want to know about him or learn about millions of other "knowledge workers" can easily do so by tapping into the company's online platform. LinkedIn offers details about educational background, career path, professional achievements and published work of professionals from all over the world, he said.

Making the right global connections

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn Corp, said China represents one of the largest market opportunities for the company. Provided to China Daily

Terming the California-based Internet company as the "world's largest network for professionals", Weiner likens the New York Stock Exchange-listed LinkedIn as a comprehensive professional service, which includes a mixture of an online contact book, curriculum vitae and a publishing platform for anyone wanting to make his or her way in the world of work.

Weiner justifies his claims of being the largest professional network in the world by pointing to the steadily growing membership base of over 313 million and revenue of over $2 billion. That compares with a membership base of 33 million and revenue of $78 million when he joined the company in 2008. LinkedIn is available in 23 languages, 30 cities and in 17 countries, he said.

"Our vision is to make LinkedIn the world's first economic graph, which is essentially a digital mapping of the global economy. China is a market we cannot afford to miss as it represents one of the largest opportunities that we have in the world," said Weiner

Explaining the advantages of LinkedIn, Weiner said that its biggest contribution has been in the way that people find jobs and how employers find the right candidates through a global online network. The real goal, he says is to transform this network into an economic graph.

"Our vision is to create economic opportunities for every member of the global workforce. There are still over 3 billion people in the global workforce. We would like every member of the global workforce to have a profile on LinkedIn and for every company also to have a profile on our platform. We also want to have a digital presence for every job made available by these companies."

Highlighting the importance of the digital presence, Weiner said: "Our aim is to have a digital presence for all the requisite skills needed to retain the jobs and to have a digital presence for all higher education organizations that offer the required training and skills needed to get the job.

"We want individuals, companies and universities to be able to share their relevant professional knowledge on LinkedIn, if they would like to do so. We want to step back and allow the free flow of all types of capital, be it intellectual, working or human capital, and in doing so help transform the global economy."

A few years ago, such a vision would have been dismissed as a dream. "It is not a dream or science fiction but actual science now," he said. This is because the six dimensions - members, companies, jobs, skills, higher education organizations and relevant professional knowledge - all exist on LinkedIn. "It is just a matter of time and continuing the process till we reach the scale that we want to achieve," said Weiner.

Scale is an inherent advantage that LinkedIn already has, Weiner said. "We are the largest platform of this kind in the world. The current scale and critical mass create very strong advantages, especially in terms of achieving our economic graph vision. There may be other local players, but they are not going to have the kind of regional or global presence and the size that we have," he said when asked about competition in China.

The company launched a Chinese-language website named Ling Ying (lead elites) in February. It has also set up a joint venture with Sequoia China and China Broadband Capital to offer more localized services in order to connect with more than 140 million Chinese professionals.

Since the launch of the Chinese-langue website, LinkedIn has added about 1 million Chinese users to its membership base of roughly 4 million Chinese users at the time of launch in 2003. The company was founded in 2002.

"China is one of our most important markets and one of our fastest-growing markets. In addition to being the second-largest economy in the world, what is worth noting is that roughly one out five professionals in the world now live in China," he said.

"Given the size of the Chinese economy, the number of professionals in China, the growth of the middle class in China, what we are trying to accomplish in terms of creating economic opportunities and helping people find the right job is very much aligned with what our members are looking for in China," he said.

The importance of the China market has also made LinkedIn's China head Derek Shen as the only company official in international markets who reports to Weiner directly.

Industry experts said that Chinese users are different from the users in mature countries, as they do not divide their social networking activities into entertainment and professional development.

However, after spending a considerable amount of time talking to members, customers, entrepreneurs, students and people in various stages of their career, Weiner reached the conclusion that the demands in China are similar to the rest of the world.

"If the members do not have a job, then it is obvious that they are searching for a new job. Then there are the others who are employed but looking for jobs that suit their dreams. There are also those who have got the jobs that they want and are looking to make a contribution by sharing their professional knowledge and expertise with others," he said.

Weiner has identified three priorities for LinkedIn's development in China. These are building up a localized team, building membership and boosting LinkedIn's Talent Solution business. The company has already made a good start, Weiner said, adding that it has a 100 percent localized team in China.

"All of the 30 or so full-time employees that we have in China have been hired through LinkedIn," he said.

Its Talent Solution business, which contributes above 60 percent of the total revenue, has also made a good start in China with an increasing number of domestic companies looking to spread their wings abroad and hire talent locally in these regions. "Of course there are challenges, but the challenges in China are the same as the rest of the world," he said.

"The main challenge is to remain focused. It is important also for us to define our core value proposition and continue to invest in that and also expand and also move beyond the core into adjacent areas in a disciplined way," Weiner said.

Q&A | Jeff Weiner

How do you spend your weekends?

During weekends, I like to relax and spend time with family and friends.

What is your favorite book?

My favorite book is Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values written by Fred Kofman. Another book that I have enjoyed reading is Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder.

What do you value most in business partners?

I always look for partners who have mutually aligned and long-term objectives.

What is the biggest asset of LinkedIn?

Earlier I used to say it was "the scale of network". However, now I would say it is the culture and values that we stand for. It has been our single biggest advantage and something that served us well, especially in global expansion.

Who are your idols in the business world?

Raymond G Chambers is someone who has been a great influence in my life. He currently serves as the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development.

How often do you come to China?

I have been coming here every year and will probably make even more trips in the future.

What's your secret to break the ice with Chinese businessmen?

There are no specific icebreakers as such. I believe that the best approach is to get to know people and try to understand how one can be of value and service to them.

You have been recognized as the leading CEO in the US for this year by a recent Glassdoor survey. What has been the secret of your success?

Ultimately, it is all about managing your company in a compassionate manner. To achieve this, I often put myself in the shoes of the people I work with and then base my decisions accordingly.

It is important to understand things from their perspective, to understand their strengths, understand their areas for improvement, understand their hopes and dreams, things they are all anxious about.

I do not want to project the way I see the world onto others.

(China Daily USA 10/17/2014 page19)