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LinkedIn: Buying and selling

As the social business network prepares to become part of Microsoft, it acquires PointDrive, a platform that enables sales people to share visual content with clients.

The social business network LinkedIn is acquiring PointDrive, a start up platform that enables sales people to share visual content with clients, while LinkedIn itself is about to become part of the software giant Microsoft.

LinkedIn, a social network aimed at career-minded professionals, is on track to be acquired by Microsoft later this year at a price of $26 billion. Meanwhile, LinkedIn’s acquisition of PointDrive adds firepower to its sales product – a feature that was attractive to Microsoft as it expands into social enterprise.

PointDrive, a Chicago start up, has built a platform that enables sales people to share visual content with prospective clients as a way to cement deals. PointDrive’s application enables sharing of images, videos, and links.

PointDrive’s app gives users a common online workspace where salespeople can share with clients visuals that might illustrate an advertisement or a presentation about the potential benefits of the deal.

PointDrive competes against other document sharing platforms for salespeople, such as DocSend; screen sharing services like Join.me; and online presentation platforms like Prezi.

Benefits cited

The sale price was not disclosed. Ringleader Ventures, a Chicago venture capital firm, was the sole investor in PointDrive.

In announcing the sale, David Thacker, LinkedIn vice president of product, said PointDrive is an “innovative product that aims to improve the way sales professionals engage with prospects and customers through the sharing of rich content.”

Thacker said the tailored, personalized sales content that sales reps can offer on PointDrive simplifies “the buyer-seller conversation” and results in increased efficiency, productivity and sales.

LinkedIn was a customer

Thacker said LinkedIn first learned about PointDrive when its own global sales organization started using the application last year.

The PointDrive application is part of a larger effort by LinkedIn to add new features to its Sales Navigator product, including a plugin for Gmail, integration with Salesforce and new mobile capabilities.

A professional Sales Navigator for individuals sells for $80 per month.

LinkedIn built its Sales Navigator service two years ago to boost social sales on the platform. While Navigator is not LinkedIn’s largest unit, the service was highlighted as one of the company’s synergies with Microsoft.

It’s not clear whether PointDrive will be priced separately or become part of the Sales Navigator suite of services. Previously, it was priced at $25-$50 a month per user, depending on features like expanded storage, and Salesforce integration.

More robust Navigator services are expected to boost premium LinkedIn subscriptions, which cost $80-$120 a month compared to $60 for a regular subscription.

Shift to social enterprise

PointDrive

PointDrive

The PointDrive acquisition comes as LinkedIn prepares to become part of Microsoft later this year. Microsoft agreed to acquire the company for $26 billion earlier this year, beating out competition that included Salesforce. The all-cash offer reflected a price of $196 per share.

The purchase signals a big move into social enterprise for Microsoft, according to TechCrunch.

According to the acquisition announcement in June, LinkedIn will keep its own branding and CEO Jeff Weiner will remain on the job as the services become part of Microsoft’s business and productivity unit. Weiner will report to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Social reach to grow

LinkedIn will help Microsoft build out more services for business and enterprise, making it more competitive against companies like Salesforce. LinkedIn also gives Microsoft more reach in social networking, a shift that began in 2012 with Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer.

LinkedIn’s more than 430 million users are potential customers for Microsoft products while LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator will be complementary to Microsoft’s customer relationship management tools, which are second in the marketplace to Salesforce.

LinkedIn also previously acquired Lynda.com, an online learning platform that might also be used to help sell Microsoft products and help users learn how to use them.

LinkedIn posts strong growth

LinkedIn is active in 200 countries and has more than 100 million active monthly users. With 60 percent of its traffic on mobile, the platform posts about 45 billion page views each quarter. It is also one of the world’s largest repositories of job listings, with about 7 million active listings.

The company’s recruitment ads, called “Talent Solutions” are its largest revenue producer, accounting for $2 billion of total $3 billion in revenue last year.

In announcing the acquisition, Microsoft CEO Nadella pointed to LinkedIn’s strong ongoing performance, including 19 percent growth in membership, 9 percent growth in unique visits, 49 percent growth in mobile usage, 34 percent growth in page views and more than doubling active job listings.

“The LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business centered on connecting the world’s professionals,” Nadella said, predicting more growth both of LinkedIn and Microsoft Office 365 as a result of the merger.



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