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Why LinkedIn’s soaring stock fascinates the world’s moneymakers — and crushes Jack Donaghy

May 19, 2011

Why is the world watching?

Well, an initial public offering like this happens once every 10 years. LinkedIn’s Thursday morning IPO marks the biggest Internet company offering since Google went public, back in 2004.

Sure, you can get sucked into this site, too, for hours of trolling. But you don’t log on to see what your acquaintance did last night or who your ex is dating now. For the neurotically career-minded, LinkedIn allows you to stalk to see who you want to be in five years; the paths people have taken climbing the corporate ladder; who you may know that can give you that introduction at a seemingly impenetrable company.

That’s nothing to erase your browser’s history over. LinkedIn is explicitly a career networking tool, which frankly, is its strength.

The newsfeed is not muddled with feeds of check-ins or photos of babies that you don’t know (or care about) Jack Donaghy of 30 Rock fame once joked that joining LinkedIn marked the death of one’s C-level career. What Jack didn’t yet know was that LinkedIn would have 108 million users and is now used as a high-level poaching tool, built over a period of nine years by a former Yahoo executive (yeah, he’s worth $1.8 billion).

Jack is probably on LinkedIn now, as the television industry dies, and is being served ads for Porches next to his profile.

Because that’s just one way that LinkedIn has leveraged its user data (in this case, an executive-level salary) to turn a profit. What is so valuable to companies like LinkedIn, Google and Facebook is the user data. The more users you have, the more data you have, and this data is what companies hang their hats upon. Read: Revenue Generator.

For example, Netflix trades at a higher level than it’s earning because the market recognizes its growth potential. People keep singing up, thus lending their data and giving Netflix the ability to develop more money-making products using that information. If comparatively young companies like Living Social and Groupon can figure out how to collect and leverage their member data, they too could face an extraordinary public stock offering … but probably in a decade.

What about Facebook’s one billion-strong user army? For that, the world sits on the edge of its seat. Some surmise that as soon as Mark Zuckerberg feels he’s developed products that fully take advantage of the data set (for example, product recognition software), the ever-growing beast will be publicly unleashed.

Though not as “sexy”, there’s extreme value and savvy behind LinkedIn’s services. It’s niche. It’s not a voyeuristic free-for-all. The website will soon replace business cards and Rolodexes, much in the manner that you tell someone to “Facebook you” rather than giving your number in a social setting. We’ve become an extraordinarily lazy society, and the career-conscientious, ironically, are no exception.

LinkedIn has figured out how to network and recruit extremely qualify job candidates at scale and at one click of the button without filtering throughMonster’s unemployed riffraff.

*LNKD’s initial public offering price was $45. At the time this article was written, it had grown roughly 144 percent to $109 a share.

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