LinkedIn’s Market Cap Passes Salesforce, Long The Bellwether Symbol Of Cloud Services

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For the second week in a row, LinkedIn’s market capitalization finished higher than Salesforce.com. Linkedin ended trading on Friday with a $32.56 billion market cap while the Salesforce market cap was $29.59 billion. Salesforce is a darling of Wall Street and has long been the symbol of the SaaS and new world of the enterprise, the first to surpass $1 billion in annual revenues. But with LinkedIn’s rise, the financial markets have another company to point to as a leader of the SaaS world.

Linkedin is primarily a business professional social network but an increasing amount of its revenues comes from SaaS plays with a deeper push into the CRM market. The company differentiates and competes with SaaS platforms and enterprise providers by developing a network effect that gives the company entrée into enterprise markets.

Salesforce, at its core, is not built as a network like LinkedIn. The company was built initially on its CRM platform but in recent years it has become more of a platform provider, looking for growth from its app platform and acquisitions such as ExactTarget. Through its evolution, Salesforce has been instrumental in showing that cloud services with subscription revenues could succeed. Numerous SaaS providers have followed its path with a number of them becoming publicly traded companies.

LinkedIn has built an economic graph with a focus on data analytics and algorithms, which has positioned it to become a mega business platform. According to a study over the summer by FaberNovel, LinkedIn’s success and extension into new markets depends on mining data transactions that it earns by pooling data to find connections and build new services that it sells using a SaaS model. The company is a model for how to build core practices that are built on open-source data technologies, such as Hadoop and Lucene/Solr for search that it is using to become an enterprise services provider and a player in the CRM market.

The company joins the concepts of a social network with the traditional offerings of SaaS technologies to create a new type of business platform that crosses different markets.

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According to the Faber-Novel study, almost 50 percent of LinkedIn’s revenues come from its talent solutions offerings. The company updates its code three times a day, which helps fuel a rapid development cycle, continually offering premium services to see what has most resonance.

It has extended into sales management with its Sales Navigator tool, which provides sales people with social selling capabilities. The service is a clear example of how LinkedIn is competing more with Salesforce.

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Bessemer Venture Partners is an investor in LinkedIn and has tracked its market capitalization and other SaaS providers since January 2012 through its cloud index. LinkedIn’s market cap has increased more than five times in less than a year while Salesforce.com has more than doubled. The venture group updated its index last weekend when LinkedIn had just started to surpass Salesforce.

Salesforce, it should be noted, has had a banner year. Its share price closed on Friday at $49, and the company is on the verge of its first $1 billion quarter. Last quarter it posted $957 million in revenues, a 31 percent increase compared to last year. The company projects its revenues to top $4 billion for the 2014 fiscal year. In 2013, it posted $3 billion in revenues. In 2012, revenues were $2.2 billion. The company posted its first billion-dollar year in the 2010 fiscal year with $1.3 billion in revenues. Earlier this year, Gartner Research reported that Salesforce had surpassed SAP as the CRM sales leader.

For now, the relationship wih Salesforce is an amicable one. In a discussion with Co-Editor Eric Eldon at TechCrunch Disrupt last week, CEO Jeff Weiner said Salesforce is a LinkedIn partner and will be one well into the future.

LinkedIn is primarily a talent network with a deeper interest in the CRM and enterprise markets. But it is also a new kind of SaaS provider with a market cap that makes it a new symbol of the SaaS marketplace.