LinkedIn CEO says staff increasing 50 pct this year

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Oct 8, 2009 8:02pm EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Professional networking site LinkedIn is increasing its staff by 50 percent this year, nearing its 50 millionth member, and sees signs of improvement in the tech job market, its chief executive said on Thursday.

"We are growing from 340 employees to 500 employees this year," Jeff Weiner told Reuters.

Weiner said the company has a potential market of 360 million people around the world.

"It's early days," said Weiner, whose company has been profitable for two years.

Venture capital firms Sequoia Capital, Greylock Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Bain Capital Partners and angel investors have put more than $100 million into the company and employees also hold stock.

A Reuters poll found it one of the Silicon Valley companies most eligible to go public, but founder Reid Hoffman and Weiner have said they are in no rush for an initial public offering. They have said there is no need to raise funds because expansion is being paid for from profits.

The company says it adds a new member each second and Quantcast.com reports that it has 28.5 million users monthly among its members.

Weiner said LinkedIn has three revenue streams -- advertising, premium membership subscriptions and software as a service that helps recruiters look for people to fill jobs.

Ad sales are growing more than 50 percent, year over year, at a time when overall Web ad sales are down. The company can brag about excellent demographics, and companies can target their ads with high precision.

Weiner said 40 percent of Fortune 100 companies are using the company's software service for recruitment, he said.

"We're starting to see an uptick in the size of the deals," Weiner said. He declined to generalize about what that might mean for jobs broadly, but said he sees jobs coming back in the high tech area.

Monster.com also helps people find jobs, but more narrowly focuses on active job seekers.

Weiner took over as chief executive at the start of the year and has watched the company grow both in and outside of the United States.

The company was valued by its investors last year at $1 billion and has annual revenue of more than $100 million.

He said the fastest growing area is now India and the company has one office outside the United States, in London.

The two other high-profile, high-growth social networks are Facebook and Twitter, but Weiner does not consider them competitors.

"People like to keep their work and personal lives separate," he said. He said that Linked-In is strong in the professional area, and Facebook focuses strongly on family and friends.

Analyst Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group said recently that if Facebook chose to add a business filtering feature it could potentially be a challenge to LinkedIn.

"Facebook has given no indicator they want to go in that direction," Owyang said.

Twitter is entirely different and works as a way to augment other social networks, Weiner said. In fact, LinkedIn has an application that uses Twitter to help monitor conversations concerning particular companies on LinkedIn.

(Additional reporting by Alexei Oreskovic and San Francisco bureau)

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