For the first time in a long time I had a must-read S-1. LinkedIn filed on January 27. How 20th century of them. LinkedIn actually transparently (as much as any S-1 is transparent) laid out some positioning, development plans, marketing tactics, and financials instead of sending rich people in Dubai an email on New Year's Day and asking them to mail in a check for $2 million.
Still -- from reading the LinkedIn S-1 -- this is not an enterprise software or information technology investment opportunity. It's more like an eBay or Amazon, a traditional business that is based on technology, not selling technology. LinkedIn says its approach is:
The trouble is its "industry" (which I am reading to mean market) includes both everyone and no one. Certainly, as the S-1 says, monster.com (MWW) and careerbuilder -- a joint venture of Gannett (GCI), Tribune, McClatchy (MNI) and Microsoft (MSFT) -- are key leaders for the talent part of LinkedIn's revenue stream. But the list for classified-business-ad competitors is endless.
Everyone from Google (GOOG) to Facebook (FU) to Twitter to Disney (DIS) to Viacom (VIA.B) is a competitor or sort of a competitor or possible competitor for advertising dollars. And again, that short list under-explains the competition LinkedIn faces by a couple of orders of magnitude.
That leaves the third leg of the stool: the market for increasing professional productivity. LinkedIn is clear elsewhere in the S-1 that "professional" is the key part of its mission. But that differentiator means it's going head to head with Microsoft, salesforce.com (CRM), and many other leading traditional enterprise software providers.
Sorry but none of this ground is "unexplored." In fact, it is saturated with explorers. LinkedIn is coming to market in a 20th century style because it is a 20th century idea. We called them exchanges back in 1998 before that term got co-opted by Obamacare.
Still it is nice to see someone using the technology term "proprietary" in a non-pejorative sense.
-- Dennis Byron
(No financial interest in companies mentioned.)