LinkedIn or LinkedUp?

Posted on June 22, 2008 by Tony Uphoff

The recent post on Bain Capital Ventures investment in Linkedin at a valuation of $1Billion got some interesting comments both on and off blog from media colleagues of mine.

The discussions have revolved more around the value of the LinkedIn user experience and service than the valuation of the company. If we agree that financial valuation is a trailing indicator of audience and user valuation, then this is a worthwhile area to explore.

There comes a time in early stage development of any business venture when you have to ask whether you are building a product or a company. In the era of Infoware you can substitute application for product. The clear issues to sort are about scale and in turn exit strategy. I can tell you from both the seat of the start up executive as well as having gotten close up views of this from literally thousands of start up companies as a media partner these are rarely simple or in some cases rational evaluations. What looks like a very narrow application to one person is the next Google to another.

From my vantage point LinkedIn will not scale as a stand alone business. They do not have the user content engine or developer network that Facebook has, nor do they have a content platform that gets regular, daily, workflow use. In other words they won't scale on their own and will need to acquire and or merge with another company to realize their ultimate value. Yes creating more of a platform strategy via a private labeling model also holds potential. In other words allow content and other related service providers to use the platform to create their own LinkedIn applications and groups for vertical markets. Bit of a tough business model though unless you drive substantial scale.

So what's your take? Will LinkedIn scale or will they get LinkedUp?,

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