LinkedIn is going through a management shakeup where CEO Dan Nye is handing back the reins to founder Reid Hoffman. The move comes at a curious time since LinkedIn is likely to be countercyclical and get more usage in the downturn as folks look for work.
Based on a bevy of reports, Nye is out and Hoffman is in.
Hoffman replaces current CEO Dan Nye, who has resigned and will leave the company in mid-January. He came to LinkedIn almost two years ago and was positioned then as the person who was going to eventually be taking LinkedIn public.
More interesting in the shift is the appointment of former Yahoo exec Jeff Weiner as interim president, overseeing day-to-day operations at LinkedIn.
Weiner has been an executive-in-residence at both Accel Partners and Greylock Partners (a LinkedIn investor) since he left Yahoo earlier this year.
The shakeup comes at an interesting time. LinkedIn is arguably hitting probably the best time in its corporate history. Why? Consider:
- LinkedIn has a war chest with well-heeled investors;
- It has high profile partners;
- People are actually starting to use the service en masse;
- LinkedIn's business is counter cyclical.
Think about that final point. How many LinkedIn requests have you received as the layoffs have escalated? I've gotten tons. Sure Facebook is rolling as usual, but when folks are looking to network for opportunities they're hitting LinkedIn for recommendations and the like.
There are some hiccups in LinkedIn's model: Are HR departments really going to use the service when they are cutting workers? But overall you could do a lot worse than LinkedIn these days.
Meanwhile, LinkedIn still has a lot of exit strategy options. When I think LinkedIn I think exit. I just don't see it being independent forever. The company was born to be sold.
And unlike other companies you can connect the dots on multiple buyers. A short list:
- McGraw-Hill--already an investor. Why? McGraw-Hill's BusinessWeek is dabbling with community. Why not just buy a powerful business networking community and wrap BusinessWeek around it?
- SAP. There are interesting possibilities connecting LinkedIn's network to enterprise software.
- Microsoft. Your Outlook contact list will ultimately look like LinkedIn. And LinkedIn would play to what Microsoft's Web strength will ultimately be: Online Office.
- Yahoo. Think LinkedIn meets Yahoo email.
- Multiple media players. Assuming media companies pull out of their advertising tailspin someday LinkedIn will be a big shiny object. Media companies will have a few years of lean times and LinkedIn will have increasing usage and traffic as people look for work. LinkedIn will be the hottie at the end of a bar for many media companies dying to look hip.
The point: LinkedIn has a few options. That's why a management shakeup could be a bit worrisome. Nye had it together not that Hoffman doesn't. But it's an odd time to be shuffling executives.
Also see: Google exec joins LinkedIn