Viadeo Raises $32M To Expand Its Professional Social Network In China, Russia And Beyond

Paris-based business social networking site Viadeo may have put a planned IPO into a holding pattern last year, but it is not having any trouble raising capital elsewhere as it forges ahead with its international expansion.

Today, it has announced that it has picked up funding worth $32 million — one of the largest recent tech investments in Europe and the biggest ever for a social network in the region.

Investors in this round included government-backed funds the French Sovereign Wealth Fund and the Fonds Stratégique d’Investissement; institutional shareholders Idinvest and Ventech; and several new investors such as Allianz, Jefferies, and Middle Eastern private funds. This most recent round of funding, Viadeo’s fourth, takes the total amount invested in the company to $50.2 million.

Viadeo says the investment will be used to grow its business in Europe and China. In the latter market, it operates as Tianji and claims to be the biggest professional social network in the country, with 10 million members — nearly one quarter of all of Viadeo’s 45 million registered users.

Following through on that success in China, Viadeo says funds will also be used to expand operations in more emerging markets such as Latin America, India, Africa and Russia. In Russia, the company established a JV with Finnish publisher Sanoma Oyj in December 2011 to create a more localized version of the site for the Russian market.

Viadeo describes itself as the world’s second-largest social network for business people. Indeed, LinkedIn is still far ahead of it, with 150 million users as of February 2012.

But while LinkedIn can claim that it has users spread across 200 different countries and territories, Viadeo says its unique selling point is that it takes more of a local approach than its rivals. That has seen, for example, Viadeo’s Chinese site attracts a much younger demographic than the rest of its footprint, with the average age of a Tianji user being only 30.

“We have always been laser-focused on our ‘multi-local’ approach, which goes beyond simple translation and focuses on catering to, and understanding, the business and cultural needs of each market,” said Dan Serfaty, CEO, Viadeo. “This approach has awarded us tremendous growth and success in both European and emerging markets.”

Considering that both LinkedIn and Viadeo offer a similar range of services within the app — the opportunity to network, enhance reputation and visibility, chatter about business with others, and so on — it will be interesting to see whether this more “laser local” approach will draw more users to Viadeo over the promise of bigger scale from LinkedIn.

So far, the signs for expansion have been promising. Viadeo says that each month it adds 1 million new members, creates 10 million new connections and facilitates 100 million profile views. The company also says it achieved profitability back in September 2009.