Guericke recounts lessons learned from LinkedIn

April 5, 2011, 2:06 a.m.

Konstantin Guericke, co-founder of the professional networking site LinkedIn, kicked off the Asia-Pacific Student Entrepreneurship Society (ASES) Stanford Summit with a keynote presentation entitled “Leveraging Networks for Startup Success: Using LinkedIn Beyond Hiring, Getting a Job and Reconnecting.”

Guericke said he started LinkedIn to address two problems: the inefficiency of the labor market as a whole and the lack of a personal “agent” to manage each individual’s brand in the new marketplace.

Guericke recounts lessons learned from LinkedIn
Konstantin Guericke, co-founder of LinkedIn, a professional networking site, spoke at Monday's ASES talk (ZACK HOBERG/The Stanford Daily).

Guericke explained that before the Industrial Revolution, each person was a business. After the revolution, however, people became more oriented toward finding a stable job in a large corporation and moving up the hierarchy.

“For 20 years or so now, we’re into the Information Revolution,” Guericke said.

He explained that each professional is becoming less a part of a large corporation and more akin to an actor in Hollywood. Individual actors now market “their own brands and direct their own careers.”

“LinkedIn was envisioned as being every professional’s agent,” Guericke said.

But these developments have their own disadvantages. Though the Internet has made it easier for people to submit their resume to a large number of companies, recruiters must now to spend a lot more time sifting through the “noise,” he said.

He pointed out that people are more likely to succeed in getting hired when someone within the company refers them. For this reason, Guericke wanted to find a way to make it easier to find those connections and make referrals.

“We are your agent for your whole working, productive lives, and that way, we make the job market more efficient,” he said.

In the second part of his talk, Guericke spoke about the lessons learned from his experience as an entrepreneur.

He emphasized, in particular, the importance of teaching and learning entrepreneurship by example and encouraged attendees to critically question each lesson.

Guericke rejected the notion that the success of a company depends on the idea behind it. He was adamant that execution and distribution are more important.

“Companies just look like overnight successes, but people forget about who was there before,” Guericke said.

He noted that when LinkedIn first launched, journalists compared it to Friendster. They later drew comparisons to MySpace and now liken LinkedIn to Facebook.

Guericke argued that the reason that LinkedIn has continued growing, despite competition from other successful social networks, is that the company is “clearly differentiated.”

He talked about the importance of distribution and attributed success to having exposure to consumers who won’t often seek out a better product after they have seen or used the first one of its class.

“It’s not so much first to market but first to contact,” Guericke said. “Most consumers don’t say, ‘Here’s a product, let me see what the top competitors are and choose which is best.’”

“You can add features later, but there is one product that your friends use,” he added.

That fact generates value for the product.

Guericke also stressed the value of relationships, especially in a social media world where companies such as LinkedIn enable people search.

“Behave like you’re going to have multiple [interactions],” he said, pointing out that search makes it easy for potential employers to seek out past co-workers, not just people on a list of references.

He also spoke of the competitive advantage that can be had by finding information that is not in the public domain.

“You have to find the person that has that information in their head,” he said.

Other lessons that Guericke discussed were the importance of creating a brand, having a good team and having a little bit of luck.

Wednesday, the ASES summit will feature Gordon Eubanks, co-founder of Symantec, and Jennifer Morris, senior vice president of Conservation International.

Correction: In a previous version of this article, The Daily incorrectly stated that Gordon Eubanks and Jennifer Morris were slated to speak on Tuesday. In fact, they will present Wednesday.

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