Reid Hoffman graduated from Stanford in 1990 with a Symbolic Systems degree. He went to Oxford for a Master’s in Philosophy hoping to pursue a career in academia, but became disillusioned with the profession and pivoted to the tech world after graduation.
Hoffman wanted to start his own tech company, but first needed industry experience. He found a job in UX design at Apple and moved to product management at Fujitsu a few years later. He left Fujitsu to co-found SocialNet but stepped down when Peter Thiel and Max Levchin hired him as an executive at Paypal, whose board he had served on since its founding. He stayed there until Paypal went public in 2002.
In 2003, he recognized the potential of consumer internet products, and decided it was time to start his own venture. He realized the importance of networking in business, and saw an opportunity to create a social platform for the business world. He brought on four co-founders. One of them, Eric Ly, was Hoffman’s friend from their Stanford days where they both majored in Symbolic Systems. Two others, Blue and Vaillant, were at Stanford with Hoffman as well, but he didn’t meet them until later in their professional lives.
LinkedIn’s growth was slower than average for a social network platform, but continued to gain traction, especially after they proved to be a viable business model. When they reached critical mass, Hoffman stepped down as CEO, first hiring Dan Neff to lead the company through its first stages of growth, and then Jeff Weiner, who led the company through its IPO.