LinkedIn competitor Viadeo hits 30 million members

Viadeo, the social network for professionals, has reached somewhat of a milestone today, claiming 30 million members. It competes directly with the likes of Germany’s Xing and Silicon Valley heavyweight LinkedIn, which claims 65 million users.

To put Viadeo’s growth into context, however, when we reported on the company’s latest funding round in July 2009, it could only boast 8.5 million users, leaving us to question its ‘break out’ strategy. How was the Paris-based company planning to differentiate itself and win mind share over such a well established competitor as LinkedIn?

The answer appears to lie in what Viadeo is calling its “multi-local” approach, which has seen major growth in China, Asia and Latin America. Overall, the social network is available in 226 countries, spanning five continents and with members working in 322 separate industries.

Viadeo’s multi-local strategy goes “beyond simple localisation”, says the company’s CEO Dan Serfaty. “From the right languages, to understanding the business and cultural needs of each territory.”

In comparison, LinkedIn covers over 200 countries and boasts executives from all Fortune 500 companies are members, while Viadeo says that one in six members are “either a business owner or entrepreneur”, with 70% of members holding middle or senior management positions.

China and India are cited as specific areas of growth, with more than a million members joining from the former in the last six months. India has seen over half a million members join since October 2009. South American membership is also on a nice growth curve, adding two million members in sixth months.

Viadeo is described as “highly-profitable”, and works on a freemium basis similar to LinkedIn. The site claims 200 million pages views per-month.

Serfaty adds: “Our growth and success in China, shows exactly what it takes to do business in territories that are often seen as ‘challenging’. It takes a deep understanding of the ‘local’ market, and does not mean exporting a particular attitude, experience or set of values.”

That’s a lesson many startups would be wise to take note.