If there is a father of social media in Silicon Valley, it may be Reid Hoffman, the Stanford and Oxford educated entrepreneur best known for co-founding LinkedIn in December 2002. Hoffman, currently the executive chairman of LinkedIn and a partner in the venture firm of Greylock Partners, saw the future before almost anyone else.
Grasping the Internet’s shift from a platform for data to one for people, Hoffman not only started the very first contemporary social media business back in 1997 – a dating service called SocialNet, but also was an angel investor in Friendster, Facebook and Zynga as well as the former CEO of LinkedIn, the 78 million member strong business social network which is currently adding a million new members every 10 days. Indeed, back in 2003 Hoffman – in partnership with his friend Mark Pincus, the founder of Zynga – paid $700,000 in an auction for an intellectual patent on social networking, thereby making him, in a sense, the owner of the idea of social media itself.
So it was a real treat to catch up with Hoffman last week in Colorado where we were both speaking at the Aspen Summit. In our wide-ranging conversation, Hoffman quoted Aristotle’s remark that we are “social animals” to explain the remarkable success of social media. But what has always intrigued me about Hoffman – given his central role in the history of social media – is his own social reticence. As he confessed to me, he’s happiest working in small groups, outside the social limelight. This contradiction makes Hoffman one of the most intriguing figures in contemporary Silicon Valley. But there’s no mystery to his intelligence – manifested in everything from his thoughts about his role at LinkedIn, his vision of the future of social media, his views about the relevance of large venture capital, to his explanation of why the world needs more entrepreneurs to solve its most intractable problems.
Reid Hoffman on LinkedIn and why its future IPO is “definitely maybe.”
Reid Hoffman on why and how social media changes people’s lives and why he remains an optimist.
Reid Hoffman on his new role at Greylock Partners and why there’s still a role for big venture capital in Silicon Valley.
Reid Hoffman on whether it’s too late to get into the social media business.
Reid Hoffman on why society needs entrepreneurs and what entrepreneurs need to learn to be successful.