“I’m with LinkedIn,” he said, or something to that effect, when he introduced himself. What he didn’t say is, “I’m the co-founder of LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional social network,” though, he could have.
I met Allen Blue, LinkedIn co-founder, at a reception hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to Jordan, while in Amman attending MENA-ICT, a tech forum hosted by His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan.
When you arrived at the Ambassador's reception, you said hello to a number of friendly faces from the U.S. Embassy, then meandered into a hall filled with chairs for the obligatory presentations before the reception. Folks just mingled.
I spotted someone standing aside, not chatting with anyone at the moment, so, I thought I’d strike up a conversation. I introduced myself as “Glen Gilmore from New Jersey,” figuring the stranger to be a fellow American. “Allen Blue, from Silicon Valley, I work with LinkedIn,” he replied. I kidded him about whether or not he really lived in Silicon Valley or whether that was simply something everyone from California now says. Silly me.
What struck me most about Blue, apart from his very down-to-earth, friendly manner, was the passion he showed for an even brighter future for LinkedIn and the possibilities of social media to help solve one of the most pressing challenges of the day, job creation.
LinkedIn Means Business
Blue explained that he hoped to see LinkedIn evolve to where more people tapped its potential, namely, its ability to match skills with job vacancies and mentors. What he said is that there are so many people looking for jobs today while there are still many businesses looking for talent for their businesses. He suggested neither employers nor job seekers were doing the best job of using LinkedIn for their respective needs.
A “Bluer” Future for LinkedIn?
Blue also said that he would like to see a more expansive use of LinkedIn that was not simply the domain of white-collar “professionals,” but also included more blue-collar workers as well. He almost seemed to have a sparkle in his eye when he mentioned this. It seemed to be about bringing the benefits of LinkedIn to a greater community, a bold move that would likely alienate some, but encourage even more.
MENA – One of the Last, Big Frontiers for Social
Asked about his presence at the MENA (Middle East, North Africa) conference, he said, “It's one of the last big frontiers,” speaking of the region.
This is not to suggest that social isn’t already big in MENA, it’s huge. But, with a burgeoning, young population, it will only get bigger, especially for a social network that has previously focused on established "professionals" and now may be positioning for a broader community base.
A Founder Who Hasn't Lost His Eye for Growth or Innovation
We had taken our seats during the speeches, and then moved on to another room for the reception. We continued our chat until we both left the reception. It was nice to spend some time with someone like Blue who had trekked to the conference to share his passion for a social network that he envisions as holding keys to a better, more connected future for us all. It was enlightening, too, to hear that his vision for the network includes a broader, "bluer" community.
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