Brexit and Sales Intelligence Vendors

BrexitBrexit happened.  Most of us didn’t think it would, but it did.  As an outsider, I’m not going to address the foolishness of the vote and the harm it is already doing to British financial and currency markets.  That would simply be piling on.

But as an analyst of the sales intelligence space, I can make some observations about how it is likely to impact my industry.  The short-term impact will mostly be financial as US firms find that H2 revenue will decline due to the fall in the Pound (and less so the Euro).  Sales Intelligence products are priced in Pounds and do not float so the impact will likely be felt by American vendors reporting lower revenue from their European operations.  I expect the term “currency headwinds” will again become popular on earnings calls.  This situation may be compounded by British firms being more conservative in H2 due to political and economic uncertainty.  They may choose to license fewer seats or hold off on licensing a service.

The British Pound is down ten percent vs. the US Dollar since the Brexit vote (Source: XE.com)
The British Pound is down ten percent vs. the US Dollar since the Brexit vote (Source: XE.com)

Should the pound remain weak going forward, vendors may raise sterling-denominated prices in 2017; but this decision is somewhat dependent upon the location of staff, denomination of licensing contracts, and degree of Brexit economic contraction.  As UK company content is mostly licensed from UK vendors, it is likely to be denominated in Pounds so content licensing expenses are also likely to drop for American vendors.  (US companies will often sign licensing deals in pounds as it provides a partial hedge against currency fluctuation).

Britain is the second most important market for sales intelligence services after the United States.  While other markets may be growing faster, Britain has long been either the home of sales intelligence products (Bureau van Dijk, DueDil, Artesian Solutions) or the logical second market for American firms.  US firms have long enjoyed access to the European market via offices in London and some even configure their products with regional UK and European editions.  Britain will remain a critical market for these companies and there is little reason to believe that American firms cannot continue to sell into the EU via these offices.

But a long-term problem may be staffing their British offices with multi-lingual sales, support, marketing, and editorial staff.  The status of EU citizens working in Britain is unclear and may not be resolved for two years.  A study by Wayra UK found that 34% of British start-up employees are not British citizens with 20.7% of employees carrying EU passports.  Whether EU citizens will continue to freely live and work in Britain is an open question subject to negotiation over the next two years.

Wayra UK found that British startups have a built in competitive advantage from this diversity.  They found that 79% believe that cultural diversity helped them compete while 75% said it helped them overcome challenges and 72% argued that it assisted with new market entry.  However, if EU work visas become an issue, the British will lose this competitive edge.  There is also the negative impact of reduced work and study opportunities for British citizens which will erode British understanding of individual country markets.  In the context of information services, the cost and difficulty of maintaining a multi-lingual research and support staff in Britain may increase.

“Without access to Europe the pool of applicants shrinks dramatically,” DueDil founder Damian Kimmelman told Forbes. “We are a venture-backed business, and a venture-backed business means we are invested in to create super growth. But you can’t create super growth if it’s so difficult to hire the people that can create that super growth. People in tech are the number one commodity.”

DueDil is in the middle of building out its sales intelligence coverage of Europe so multi-lingual staff is critical.  Kimmelman is already looking at expanding operations outside of Britain and will be spending the next few weeks researching options with DueDil executives.  “We’re going to be opening up new offices.  We have to. We’re scaling far too quickly to jeopardize our ability to scale because we have to hire people in the U.K.”

One area of benefit for UK information services may be around Safe Harbour.  The EU is moving towards greater restrictions around personal information and it has always been difficult to gather and market emails.  However, the British have been an exception to this rule with vendors including UK business emails in their products.  A Brexit suggests that the EU Safe Harbour negotiations may become more difficult as continental sensitivities will no longer be balanced by British openness.  The net is emails and executive profiles are likely to remain available in the UK but that complying with EU Safe Harbour restrictions could greatly limit access to executive information and create issues for American multinationals and cloud vendors.

As a shorthand, I’ve color (or should I write colour for the Brits?) coded my analysis to highlight the benefits and drawbacks to Sales Intelligence vendors.  The net is rather negative.  Unless you are marketing British contact files for email campaigns and teleprospecting, it is unlikely that you would welcome the vote’s outcome.  For vendors providing global information services, Brexit provides additional financial and planning challenges in the number two sales intelligence market.

SLA: Why Special Libraries Aren’t So Special Anymore

SLA LogoI attended the SLA (Special Libraries Association) meeting two weeks ago in Philadelphia.  I had skipped the meetings for a half decade but returned last year when it was in Boston (where I live) and again this year in Philly (cheap, one hour flight).  The show is much smaller that it was ten or fifteen years ago when it would be packed at the Jacob Javits center in New York City.  There are fewer attendees, fewer exhibitors, smaller booths, and less energy.  This is probably the case for most trade shows which are not industry events (e.g. Dreamforce).  Fifteen years ago, when I was at OneSource (now Avention), vendors timed product releases for the SLA show.  That is no longer the case.  Sales Intelligence vendors now ignore the SLA and time their release calendar around Dreamforce.

SLA Attendee Statistics from the 2016 Exhibitor Prospectus
SLA Attendee Statistics from the 2016 Exhibitor Prospectus

The show itself has always been a bit of a hodgepodge with STEM, Legal, Financial, Business, News, and other vendors providing databases and research tools for corporate, academic, and research libraries.  But two decades ago, corporate libraries were either closed or their budgets were slashed.  Centralized repositories made less sense as information delivery shifted to Internet browser and API-based workflow tools.  Nowadays, few corporate libraries are involved in buying business research tools and, when they are, it may be more as an influencer than a buyer.  According to the 2016 Exhibitor Prospectus, only 7% of the attendees were corporate.  Even if you add in financial services, insurance, and consulting, only one in six attendees was a likely buyer of business information databases.

Half the attendees were librarians or library directors, but two decades ago, budgets and decision making authority shifted away from corporate libraries due to the Internet.  This was a precursor to the current shift of purchasing authority away from IT to functional departments caused by the cloud.

I didn’t write about the SLA at the time because I was on the exhibitor floor when one of the vendors mentioned that Microsoft acquired LinkedIn.  This was one of the biggest transactions impacting the sales intelligence space (LinkedIn Sales Navigator is the largest revenue sales intelligence vendor and Microsoft Dynamics is the second fastest growing CRM) and neither vendor was at the show.

Nor were LinkedIn’s competitors in the recruiting, marketing, social media, and professional subscription services spaces.  Not many sales intelligence vendors attend the show anymore.  You used to see Dun & Bradstreet / Hoover’s / First Research, Zoominfo, OneSource (now Avention), and Sales Genie along with many of OneSource’s aggregation partners.  LexisNexis and Factiva both flew the flag at the show, but their primary offerings are not business information but legal (Lexis) and news (Nexis and Factiva).  Except for PrivCo, none of the PE/VC focused vendors were onsite.

Interestingly, many internationally-focused vendors such as BvD, EMIS, BMI, MarketLine, Euromonitor, and Financial Times still attend.  The industry research segment seems to have held up better than business information.  BMI, MarketLine, IBISWorld, and Euromonitor were there along with various industry specific vendors.  However, Plunkett Research and First Research (owned by Dun & Bradstreet) were not present.

The decline of tradeshows is tied to Buyer 2.0.  It used to be that tradeshows were one of the few ways you could semi-anonymously gather information about vendors.  But now, information services no longer require a face-to-face meeting for demos.  You will find them on YouTube and Vimeo as either training tools, feature specific release demos, or recorded webinars.  And once buyer and seller are speaking, web sharing tools have long replaced onsite demos.  We have become accustomed to signing up for services without meeting a sales rep face-to-face.  At the lower end of the market, users simply enter a credit card and may never speak to a representative of the company.

Nowadays, there is so much information available online that the attendees are on site either for professional development (and much of SLA still serves that purpose) or because the show is local.  One exhibitor commented that the shows do better in the Northeast, likely due to higher population density and Amtrak.  I agreed — I have no plans to attend SLA 2017 in Phoenix.

NetProspex: 18 Months Since Acquisition and Thriving

Workbench-Deliverable-website-450x280
D&B NetProspex Workbench Data HealthScan report provides a free PDF detailing pre and post enrichment field population rates, data error rates, and segmentation reports.

Oftentimes when a small company is acquired, it is treated as a cash cow (if it is producing cash) or plugged into a larger business to address a capabilities gap or generate cross-selling opportunities.  Less frequently is the new asset treated as a vital, strategic asset to help enter new markets.

Audience Solutions

In the case of Dun & Bradstreet’s acquisition of NetProspex, the acquired division has been a keystone for Dun & Bradstreet’s entry into Audience Solutions (Visitor ID, Audience Targeting).  Dun & Bradstreet is beginning to gain traction in the programmatic advertising space.  On their most recent earnings call, CEO Bob Carrigan noted that their customers have long relied on Dun & Bradstreet for company data, but that this data was difficult to map to online activities because people surf the net, not companies.  When the firm acquired NetProspex early last year, they immediately set out to combine the NetProspex contact data with Dun & Bradstreet firmographics and D-U-N-S Numbers.

“Our contact data, coupled with our company data, on boarded for the digital world and matched to online cookies, helps our customers get their advertising in front of the right target, and the right decision maker at that target, at the right time,” said Carrigan.  “And, by organizing around the D-U-N-S Number, our customers can finally connect their offline customer management data with their online advertising campaigns, creating that vital bridge between ad tech and marketing tech.”

Dun & Bradstreet data is then mapped to three hundred online segments.  These segments utilize anonymous data including size variables, industry, job function, propensity to purchase specific products, and likelihood of qualifying for loans or company credit cards.  Segments are then delivered to partners including Oracle, Adobe, Google, Xaxis and Nielsen.  Furthermore, the firm’s global direct sales team offers bespoke segments for custom targeting.

“[The] whole programmatic wave, it’s all moving to B2B right now. And we’re starting to see some really nice uptake because we’re available for all the major buying platforms,” said Carrigan.  “We’re also selling direct licenses to marketers as well and obviously we’ve got a portfolio already of sales and marketing solutions.  This is a really nice complement to that and we’re trying to catch this wave and really deliver scale in a market that’s highly fragmented. So we’re pretty excited about this. It’s a great example of leveraging our core data in a new use case and it’s a great place for us to be.”

Adding Value to Hoover’s

Dun & Bradstreet also moved to quickly integrate NetProspex contacts into its Hoover’s sales intelligence service and used the NetProspex CleneStep contact verification process to validate Hoover’s contacts.  The result was a deeper set of accurate contacts within Hoover’s and other Dun & Bradstreet contact-based offerings.  The swap also saved Dun & Bradstreet several million dollars in contact acquisition costs.

NetProspex is also one of Hoover’s new Concierge Services for SMBs.  Concierge services are turnkey marketing services for SMBs that have limited marketing resources.

Investing in NetProspex

A further sign of the strategic importance of NetProspex is the continuing investment in the NetProspex Workbench service.  Workbench is a cloud-based data hygiene hub which verifies contacts (phone, email, and address), enriches the records with firmographics and technographics, provides segment and data hygiene analytics, and delivers net-new contacts.  Their data health report is a slick PDF analysis of contact file health and segmentation.  It is given away free as it also promotes Workbench enrichment (pre and post enrichment rates) and prospecting services.

The first thing that D&B did after acquiring NetProspex was swap out the weak firmographics attached to NetProspex contacts and replace them with D&B firmographics from their WorldBase file.  This provides NetProspex with both more accurate firmographics and a much deeper set of company linkages.

Why linkage is important: Each new lead should be scored to determine whether to nurture the lead or send it immediately to a sales rep.  Linkage data ensures that contacts associated with subsidiaries or branches of current customers and prospects are immediately forwarded to the appropriate sales rep.  Furthermore, qualification is based upon the parent company, not simply the size information of the subsidiary or branch.  Finally, channel conflict is reduced if leads are properly routed to the appropriate sales rep.  Reliable firmographic and linkage enrichment provides a neutral third-party source for lead routing.

In January, NetProspex released a new dashboard set to its Workbench cloud-based data hygiene products.  According to Dun & Bradstreet, “The dashboards keep track of consumption levels and alert you when you are in need of Targeted Data or a Data HealthScan. Now you can also gain insight into your Eloqua connectors in terms of performance and data enrichment.”

Data Management subscribers now see a Data HealthScore meter which indicates the overall quality of their most recent data HealthScan.  They are also shown data management scores over time.

NetProspex Data Health Optimizer Report (Workbench)
NetProspex Data Health Optimizer Report (Workbench)

Target Data subscribers can view the total number of contacts acquired over time and a Current Consumption meter which shows “the exact percentage of contact data you have consumed.”  NetProspex also added calendars to the service indicating the last time data was managed by the platform and the recommended next action date.

Finally, NetProspex increased the number of US contacts to 42 million.  Each of these contacts includes an email and a significant percentage contain direct dial numbers.

Data Analytics

While the Workbench service has long offered analytics, NetProspex recently added two analytical models to their Targeted Data subscriptions fulfilled by its Workbench platform.  The two scores assist with segmentation, lead scoring, and messaging.  Spend Capacity is based upon “non-traditional predictive segments such as UCC filings, inquiries and SIC revenue %.”  The predictive score ranks the spend capacity of a firm between one and one hundred.

The second modeled score is Growth Trajectory which “anticipates the future growth or decay of a business based on a mix of criteria including revenue, borrow levels, credit inquiries, order frequency and spend levels.”

Targeted Subscriptions help marketers scrub their marketing database of poor or outdated leads.  Records are standardized, verified (phone, email, and address), and enriched with Dun & Bradstreet company and contact data (42 million US B2B contacts with emails and direct dials).  The subscription then maintains the marketing dataset and replaces bad records with good ones.  The service includes Workbench Analytics concerning segmentation, technographics, and data quality.

“Data analytics (based on facts not probabilities) have not been readily available to the average marketer. That’s no longer the case. D&B is leveraging our deep expertise in understanding and analyzing company data and providing analytical insights as a value-added dimension to our Targeted Data Subscribers — no data scientist or fancy software needed,” says the firm.

Optimizer

According to Carrigan, Dun & Bradstreet generated more than ten million dollars in cross-sales revenue in its first year.  This would include both cross-selling contact hygiene and enrichment services from NetProspex into the Dun and Bradstreet customer base and selling Dun & Bradstreet services to NetProspex clients.  A key cross-sale is NetProspex contact enrichment and D&B Optimizer company enrichment sales.  Optimizer lacked contact enrichments so NetProspex closes that gap.

What’s more, Dun & Bradstreet recognizes that the Optimizer platform needs to be modernized and announced plans to build company Optimizer services on the Workbench platform.  Once completed, Workbench will provide a broader utility to marketers that need both lead (contact based) and account (company based) enrichment of their marketing automation platforms and CRMs.

Data.com and Pardot: Synch but No Prospecting

Pardot stare and compareWhile other sales and marketing intelligence vendors provide integrated prospecting within marketing automation platforms, Salesforce has not implemented Data.com prospecting for the Pardot B2B marketing automation platform.  Pardot is strictly a permission-based marketing platform so sales reps need to work the prospects to obtain marketing permission before the record can be sent from Salesforce to Pardot.

“It’s a bad idea to purchase email lists and immediately send email to those purchased prospects, and no reputable email service provider will allow you to immediately send email to a purchased list. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from this treasure trove of information, as long as permission is explicitly obtained first,” said Skyler Holobach, Pardot’s Email Compliance Manager.

Instead, Holobach recommends using Data.com Clean to enrich basic contact information obtained from web forms or tradeshows.  If the user is synching with Data.com Clean, then company and contact data is enriched.  Otherwise, users can synch against Data.com Connect for contact enrichment.  Updating takes the user through a “stare and compare” process.

When users have Data.com Prospector lists, they are required to call into accounts to obtain opt-in permission.

“The incorrect way would be to use Data.com as a cold lead generator for email purposes. Given the terms stated in the Permission-Based Marketing Policy, customers can not pull in prospects through Data.com and immediately add them to Pardot lists for emails and/or nurturing without first obtaining their permission. By not following best practices, you’re also running a significant risk for getting your IP address blacklisted, which can lead to significant email reputation damage,” said Holobach.  “Instead, you should follow the best practices outlined above, to first obtain permission prior to sending email. By obtaining explicit permission prior to sending email, you can reap the benefits of the Data.com database while staying in compliance with Pardot’s Permission-Based Marketing Policy and keeping your email reputation high.”

LinkedIn Premium Insights: Hiring & Employment Analytics

LinkedIn announced immediate availability of a set of company insight analytics to its premium products including Sales Navigator, Business Plus, and Talent Solutions.  The new reports provide company employment intelligence from the LinkedIn database which competing sales intelligence vendors would be hard pressed to replicate.

Product leader and strategist Megan Kamil blogged, “The use cases for these insights are limitless. From the market research associate gathering relevant information on key market and competitive landscapes to the investment professional trying to uncover the next ‘hot’ company, this information will be valuable to any business professional.”

The new Total Employee count provides a two-year graph of LinkedIn employment trends.  The trend data can be quite useful for evaluating a company’s recent trajectory.  LinkedIn also provides the average tenure.  Low tenure needs to be interpreted carefully as it could be a sign of either rapid growth or an unhappy workforce.  Had they also included an employee churn rate this issue would be clarified.

LinkedIn Total Employee Count provides two years of data, growth rate, and average tenure.
LinkedIn Total Employee Count provides two years of data, growth rate, and average tenure.

While employee counts are available in other services, the LinkedIn data is likely to be more accurate for companies with a high percentage of professionals.  Firms with a high percentage of blue collar, seasonal, or part-time workers are more likely to be undercounted.  Be aware, though, that larger companies often appear as multiple companies (e.g. overseas subs, major divisions, or acquired companies) in LinkedIn, so they could also be subject to an undercount.

Also quite useful is employment by job function as it allows sales reps and analysts to evaluate where the bulk of employment is within an organization and how it is shifting.  This information is particularly valuable at startups as it provides an indicator of product maturity.  For example, a firm that is engineering focused with few sales and marketing positions may be pre-revenue.

LinkedIn Employee Distribution by Function provides insights into the relative size of departments over two years.
LinkedIn Employee Distribution by Function provides insights into the relative size of departments over two years.

However, if sales and marketing functions spiked last quarter, the firm may be readying a product launch.  Such a shift can be detected in the New Hires report.

 

New Hires shows overall hiring trends with a focus on senior management.
New Hires shows overall hiring trends with a focus on senior management.

The other two new reports are Notable Alumni and Total Job Openings.  Alumni may be useful for tracking former execs at a long-standing client to their new place of employment.  Such tracking may find new startups not on a sales reps’ radar along with potential connections or talking points.

Total Job openings are displayed by month and broken out by function and seniority.

Total Job Openings details monthly open positions for two years and current openings by function and level.
Total Job Openings details monthly open positions for two years and current openings by function and level.

LinkedIn is beginning to leverage its 433 million profiles to provide unique insights for its premium services.  A logical next step for them to take would be predictive modeling based upon their executive data.  For example, an analysis of the hiring ramp at retail and logistics companies in November provides insights into how optimistic the industry is about the upcoming holiday season.  Similarly, unannounced layoffs at companies just before the quarter ends might be picked up well before public companies announce their earnings.  As LinkedIn also has a large dataset of hiring data, the firm could also begin providing insights on the open positions at companies.  Unfortunately, the Job Openings report does not link to position details or allow for prior period analysis.

“This is just the beginning of the deeper, more advanced company insights we aim to deliver as part of our Premium experience on LinkedIn,” said Kamil.

If Microsoft is to obtain a strong ROI on its pending LinkedIn acquisition, it needs LinkedIn to more broadly develop analytics and tools which leverage the unique LinkedIn crowdsourced dataset.  Imagine the value to sales and risk departments (e.g. credit, purchasing) of providing hiring trends over time and by position within Microsoft Dynamics.

One firm that is already providing hiring data analytics in their sales service is CB Insights for Sales which uses the Indeed hiring database for its reports.  Users see a report similar to the LinkedIn Total Job Openings report, can view the open positions by function and level for current and prior periods, and drill down to both open and closed positions.  Thus, a sales rep could view the required skillset for the new VP of Product or CMO to better understand her mandate.

MSFT – LNKD: Expanding the Economic Graph

Microsoft ($MSFT) put in a $26.2 billion cash bid for professional social networking company LinkedIn ($LNKD) yesterday.  The deal is the largest transaction of the Satya Nadella era and represents a fifty percent premium over LinkedIn’s Friday closing price. The deal provides Microsoft an entrée into professional social networking, enterprise recruiting, and learning and development (Lynda.com).  The deal also brings LinkedIn Sales Navigator into Microsoft’s enterprise product line.

Microsoft benefited from a dip in LinkedIn’s stock price earlier this year when the firm provided soft guidance for fiscal year 2016.  Although the stock has rebounded some following a recent strong earnings report, the bid is below LinkedIn’s stock price at the beginning of the year.

The deal is expected to close later this year.  Both boards have already approved the offer.  Regulatory approval is required in the US, EU, Canada, and Brazil with the firm “confident” in approval.

LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman called the transaction a “re-founding moment” for LinkedIn, which went public in May 2011.

Merger Plans

Jeff Wiener will continue as the CEO of LinkedIn with no changes in the firm’s organizational structure.  He will report directly to Nadella.  LinkedIn will continue as an independent brand and product line but will move to integrate the social network and its products with Microsoft Office and Dynamics.  Nadella is looking to accelerate LinkedIn’s growth rate while “partnering on product integration plans with the Office 365 and Dynamics teams.”

LinkedIn will be rolled into Microsoft’s productivity and business processes segment, which includes Office and Office 365.

One of the merger’s goals is to provide “a professional’s profile everywhere.”  Microsoft noted that professional data is scattered in disparate silos which are often outdated and incomplete, but that “in the future, a professional’s profile will be unified and the right data at the right time will surface in an app, whether Outlook, Skype, Office, or elsewhere.”

“Now you have the ability whenever you’re looking up a contact not only to see that contact with the information that’s contained in active directory, but you can get at the full richness of their information in the professional network and who are all the others in their professional network, so that is sort of what we mean by the social fabric of your digital work and Office 365,” said Nadella.

Microsoft is also looking to leverage LinkedIn’s newsfeed service which they built upon the Newsle and Pulse acquisitions.  Microsoft told investors that “since information lives in silos, professionals miss relevant news and waste time.  In the future, the newsfeed will be the place to go for every professional to stay connected with the happenings in their network, industry, and profession.  Beyond all this, the feed will be constantly informed and tailored to the happenings at work like the meeting coming up and projects underway.”

The intelligent newsfeed will increase membership, monthly active users, and ad revenue.

Likewise, Microsoft anticipates an improved digital assistant as Cortana leverages LinkedIn professional and news intelligence.  “Just imagine you’re walking into a meeting and Cortana now wakes up and tells you about the people you’re meeting for the first time, but tells you all the things that you want to know before walking in and meeting someone, because you have the access to the professional network. Cortana is about knowing everything about you, your organization, the work and now the professional network,” said Nadella.  “So really being able to reason about all of that and be your personal digital assistant, that’s truly the best professional digital assistance is a fantastic opportunity.”

Microsoft Dynamics sales reps will benefit from a direct connection with LinkedIn Sales Navigator allowing them to engage in social selling.  The firm told investors, “this will transform the sales cycle with actionable insights and the ability for each seller to build deeper relationships with prospects and customers – all to accelerate results.”

Other end user benefits include improved “organizational insights and transformation” via LinkedIn Recruiter and “just in time social learning” via Lynda.

Nadella told Microsoft employees that the merger expands market opportunities for Microsoft:

We are in pursuit of a common mission centered on empowering people and organizations. Along with the new growth in our Office 365 commercial and Dynamics businesses this deal is key to our bold ambition to reinvent productivity and business processes. Think about it: How people find jobs, build skills, sell, market and get work done and ultimately find success requires a connected professional world. It requires a vibrant network that brings together a professional’s information in LinkedIn’s public network with the information in Office 365 and Dynamics…As these experiences get more intelligent and delightful, the LinkedIn and Office 365 engagement will grow. And in turn, new opportunities will be created for monetization through individual and organization subscriptions and targeted advertising.

The merger will make business professionals more productive while “reinventing selling, marketing and talent management business processes.”

The Economic Graph

Microsoft published the following summary of “The Professional World” covered by Microsoft and LinkedIn:

Product counts from the Microsoft - LinkedIn Acquisition Fair Disclosure presentation on June 13, 2016.
Product counts from the Microsoft – LinkedIn Acquisition Fair Disclosure presentation on June 13, 2016.

Microsoft sees the acquisition as an opportunity to merge the Microsoft and LinkedIn Graphs.  In a presentation to the market, Microsoft stated that “today, all the information a professional needs to be successful lives in silos.  By connecting the world’s leading professional cloud and the professional network, we can create more connected, intelligent and productive experiences.  We also have the opportunity to accelerate the realization of the Economic Graph.”

The Economic Graph is LinkedIn’s BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal). A good BHAG should be viewed as internally achievable even if others view it as simply fanciful. Furthermore, a good BHAG provides a long-term vision and mission for framing business decisions and motivating employees.

In March 2015, Weiner said that the Economic Graph’s goal is to “create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce” of over 3 billion people and 780 million “professionals, knowledge workers and students” by capturing broad economic information including employees, companies, universities, jobs, skills, etc.

Merging the Microsoft and LinkedIn graphs to advance the Economic Graph (Slide from Fair Disclosure call on June 13, 2016).
Merging the Microsoft and LinkedIn graphs to advance the Economic Graph. (Slide from Fair Disclosure call on June 13, 2016).

Other elements of the graph include a “profile for every company in the world”. Weiner sized this at 60 million to 70 million companies “if you include small and medium-size businesses.”

Beyond people and companies, the economic graph would “be a digital representation of every job available in the world — that would be full-time, temporary, for profit and volunteer” along with “a digital representation for every skill required to obtain one of those jobs offered by one of those companies.”

“When you combine Microsoft’s corporate graph with LinkedIn’s professional graph we think we’re going to be able to take a very substantial leap forward in terms of the realization of our vision, which is creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, and we’re going to do that through the development of the world’s first economic graph,” said Weiner.  “Just as we have changed the way the world connects to opportunity, this relationship with Microsoft, and the combination of their cloud and LinkedIn’s network, now gives us a chance to also change the way the world works,” Weiner said. “For the last 13 years, we’ve been uniquely positioned to connect professionals to make them more productive and successful, and I’m looking forward to leading our team through the next chapter of our story.”

Analyst Perspective

“Based on the income statement and balance sheet, the numbers look high for an acquisition,” Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insight and Strategy said. “I see the potential for a beefed up business social media service which is more than a resume posting service as it is today. I can envision a service where businesses more freely collaborate, leveraging online versions of Office 365, Skype for business and OneDrive.”

Mark Vickery of D.M. Martins Research views the transaction as one that wraps sales and recruiting professionals within the Microsoft-LinkedIn product universe:

At an individual level, it starts with pre-professional networking and the job search, areas in which LinkedIn has been dominant as the leading professional network platform for a while now. But then it continues with professional development, through LinkedIn’s Lynda and, most importantly, with the integration of productivity tools, including Microsoft’s Office, SharePoint and Skype. A sales representative at Company XYZ, for example, who originally found his or her job through LinkedIn, could not only generate sales leads through the same platform, but also manage calendar (MS Office), meetings (Skype), and share documents (SharePoint) more seamlessly, provided that the many tools are properly integrated, without ever having to leave the Microsoft umbrella of products and services – all with a single sign on. In the end, the hypothetical salesperson could very well have an all-Microsoft experience in the office, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and never have to seek (or encourage his or her employer to seek) workplace productivity solutions elsewhere.

Forbes contributor Grant Feller said that calling LinkedIn a social network would be akin to calling Google a search engine.  Both descriptions are accurate but miss the true value of the firms.  “LinkedIn is a content company.  In effect, Microsoft has just bought one of the world’s most influential, specialised, highly read, constantly-updated (and, it must be said, occasionally annoying) digital media companies around,” said Feller.  “The real value of the site is as a content-publishing platform in which key executives can expand their networks, their influence, their fame, their knowledge, their personas and their opportunities for a better-paid job by providing original content.”

Feller continued that while LinkedIn may at times be annoying or advertorial, LinkedIn produces much of its content.  “It doesn’t just steal and redirect, though it does perform those acts admirably – it allows users to create material that intellectually nourishes.”  However, Feller warned that Microsoft needs to protect LinkedIn from “a creep towards the banalities of Facebook” and improve the user experience.

Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corp. and partner of venture firm Kapor Capital, noted that Microsoft has a mixed record with integrating acquisitions.  “Sadly, history has shown [synergies] are very difficult to realize when two big companies combine, especially to the extent LinkedIn is remaining an independent fiefdom within the Microsoft empire.”

A general concern is that Microsoft is probably overpaying for LinkedIn.  Some analysts also questioned the mixing of a non-profitable growth company with a slower growth cash flow company.

Moody’s has placed Microsoft’s  ‘AAA’ credit rating under review as Microsoft will be issuing new debt.

Note: I hold no positions in Microsoft and LinkedIn and have no professional relationships with either firm.

 

InsideView Tech Profiler Released

InsideView announced availability of a technology vendor dataset called Tech Profiler.  The premium will be available via InsideView for Sales, InsideView Target, and Open API.  The new dataset spans 525,000 global companies across 2,100 technologies.

The API offers two calls: retrieve technology implemented at a company and retrieve companies that have deployed specific technologies.

InsideView for Sales Tech Profiler
InsideView for Sales Tech Profiler

“Adding technology information to our market intelligence platform gives technology sellers and marketers deeper insight into their prospects,” said Jenny Cheng, chief product officer at InsideView. “Tech Profiler has ten times the coverage of other technology profile solutions in the industry. Add that to all the other firmographic and demographic data plus the social insights InsideView offers and the result is an incredibly powerful tool for anyone selling technology to businesses. It’s all the intelligence you need in one platform.”

Technology targeting can be used for both competitive takeout and identifying complementary technology.  For example, technology vendors (e.g. Hardware, Software, Communications, Information Services, IT Consultants) may be looking for customers of Salesforce because they compete against Salesforce or because they are part of SFDC’s ecosystem.

InsideView did not disclose pricing or the source of their data.