LinkedIn co-founder reflects on the Microsoft acquisition for the events industry

As a co-founder of LinkedIn, I received many congratulatory notes last Monday on the news that Microsoft was acquiring LinkedIn. When a small team of us started LinkedIn 13 years ago, our mission was straightforward—create an online network for the world’s professionals so they could find and maintain connections with each other.

Four hundred thirty three million members later, this project reached an undeniably important milestone with the acquisition by Microsoft. Reid described the moment as a “re-founding” for LinkedIn. I am grateful to have been a part of it, and I want to congratulate all those who participated passionately in building LinkedIn over the years, and especially to Reid, who had the strategic brilliance to guide LinkedIn in many of its most important ways especially early on when most of the world doubted it.

Personally, the most heartening LinkedIn moments have occurred when I have been at events over the years. Fellow attendees would come up and relate stories when either they, a sibling, or another family member got a job by being on LinkedIn. It was all the more meaningful because of the great recession that began in 2008, which caused real people to hurt from a lack of real jobs. Hearing these stories gave me great pride to have been involved in something that’s made a positive impact on people’s lives.

From a business perspective, the Microsoft acquisition legitimizes the value of “social” in the business realm. The acquisition shows that beyond consumer social networks like Facebook and Twitter, social networks have concrete value in business. The world’s biggest software company just bought the world’s biggest professional networking company.

Here at Presdo, as my next company after LinkedIn, I have been reflecting on the meaning of the acquisition for the events industry. It seems as if overnight, the pieces on the proverbial chessboard have shifted dramatically, and those of us working in the events industry (and the technology world) are left pondering the implications of this acquisition.

What the acquisition means for the events industry

As the ideas and execution behind LinkedIn are being legitimized by Microsoft and further permeate the business world, so will social networking concepts spread to the events industry. The application of these concepts to the events industry will have massive implications in the coming years, primarily in how “social” technologies will be applied at events.

It isn’t so much that sharing tweets at events will now somehow become more meaningful. The value of LinkedIn lies under the covers on a foundation of rich data, recently popularized as “big data”. The millions of profiles that LinkedIn collected represent a goldmine of data that the company painstakingly organized about its users. Then, LinkedIn sought to create meaningful interactions among their users with this data, particularly in helping people connect with jobs. This data also enabled LinkedIn to deliver a product for CRM called Sales Navigator, and it was a major reason for Microsoft’s interest in the company. The acquisition demonstrated that there is considerable value in the data that’s been collected and used in meaningful ways.

One of the lessons we can draw from the LinkedIn acquisition is that it pays to learn as much about members of our event communities as possible. New value and opportunities are in the attendee data by organizing profiles over many events. With the data, we can build valuable interactions such as personalizing opportunities for learning and introducing business opportunities to attendees at and around events. Event data will help organizers build better connections with their attendees; it will also help attendees build better relationships with each other.

LinkedIn for events

After leaving LinkedIn, I started Presdo because the mission of LinkedIn around business networking was only at a beginning, especially at events. There’s no doubt that face-to-face events will continue to exist. However, today, the events industry is still nascent in its use of business networking technology as applied to event experiences. Imagine the additional value that events could create if more of these business networking ideas could be applied at events as Microsoft’s acquisition has hinted at for the business world at large. Just as LinkedIn proved valuable in the world of professionals, so will many of these ideas translate to the world of events and help create even greater business value in the years to come.

Delivering business networking to events is the very reason for Presdo’s existence. I won’t belabor this point in this post, except to say check out Presdo if you are interested.

Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn provides strong indications of the opportunities that are available to the events industry, and the opportunities from similar concepts are there for us to seize. I hope those of us working in the events industry will take a renewed and earnest focus on the still unharnessed value of events.