Now that Microsoft has announced plans to pay $26.2 billion for LinkedIn, it'd be a reasonable time for Reid Hoffman to step aside. After all, he's a partner at the venture firm Greylock, and advises numerous startups and nonprofits including Airbnb and Mozilla. He's written two best-selling business books, and is working on a third. Though he's chairman of LinkedIn's board, he hasn't had a job at the company since he appointed Jeff Weiner CEO seven years ago. But that hasn't stopped Hoffman, who still owns 11% of LinkedIn's shares, from showing up to work there almost every day.
Hoffman anticipates that once the Microsoft deal is done, his role at Microsoft will expand. He plans to double down on his efforts to transform LinkedIn from the jobseekers' front door that it has long been into the perfect path to future economic prosperity for all workers, especially the beleaguered middle class. In the process, he'll work with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on tech's future path, and its impact on Microsoft's strategy more broadly. Though no one has talked about official titles and roles yet, Hoffman plans to stay very involved in LinkedIn and could likely join the board next year. (He won't confirm.)
That's great news for Microsoft. Satya Nadella has been attempting to broker relationships in Silicon Valley since he was named CEO of the tech giant more than two years ago, but the valley's insider culture is hard to crack. What's more, as skilled as Microsoft has proven itself to be at developing technology, it hasn't yet grokked social networking. Hoffman is the insider's insider, an affable and beloved entrepreneur who has been in early at too many tech companies to count (including Facebook and Airbnb)— and he basically invented social networking. (Literally, he did; he helped launch Socialnet in 1997.) In our exclusive interview, he says, with classic understatement, his work is about to get more interesting.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
[Jessi Hempel] What's significant about a Microsoft-LinkedIn pairing?
[Reid Hoffman] The key thing for me has always been how we realize the mission — enabling every professional in the world to change their own economic curve by the strength of their alliances and connections with other people. That's always been our true north. In the piece I wrote for LinkedIn, I said there are many founding moments — some of these are inflection points through which you can accomplish something much greater.