Things might not have worked out so well if Hoffman, 45, and Weiner, 43, hadn't been introduced to each other at a technology conference in early 2008. They hit it off immediately, something Hoffman remembered a few months later when he began thinking of replacing Dan Nye as LinkedIn's CEO.
Hoffman had been LinkedIn's CEO during the first four years of the company's existence, and he knew it wasn't something that he wanted to do for another extended period — an aversion that differentiates him from other Internet visionaries such as Google's Larry Page, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Salesforce.com Inc.'s Marc Benioff, who all relish running the companies they founded.
"I like solving business strategy problems and I like creating whole new ecosystems for people," Hoffman said. "I am not passionate about leading a 3,000-person plus organization and all the work that goes into doing that in a world-class way. I always knew I didn't want to be CEO forever, but I still wanted to get LinkedIn to where it needed to get."
That's where Weiner came into the equation. Weiner had recently ended a seven-year stint as a key executive at Yahoo Inc. and was helping out various startups on a part-time basis as an entrepreneur-in-residence at venture capital firms Greylock Partners and Accel Partners.
After Hoffman persuaded him to join LinkedIn as its president in late 2008, Weiner was promoted to CEO six months later.
The partnership has proven highly productive. LinkedIn's membership has increased sevenfold from the 33 million members that had set up free profiles on the service at the time Weiner came on board. Revenue this year is expected to approach $1.5 billion, 19 times more than the $79 million generated before Weiner's arrival. The company's profits are also steadily rising. Analysts predict LinkedIn's net income will rise about 20 percent this year to $26 million.
LinkedIn has made a habit of topping analyst projections. That is something the company has done in every quarter since its IPO, helping to propel its stock.
Yet LinkedIn remains in Facebook's shadow. Since 2008, Facebook has grown even faster as the number of people using its social network swelled 11-fold to 1.1 billion and annual revenue soared 25-fold from $272 million last year to a projected $6.7 billion this year.
The secret to LinkedIn's success? The company has turned its service into an easily searchable database, a treasure trove for employers and their headhunters. The company makes most of its money from the fees it charges for analytical tools and better access to individual profiles. About 18,000 companies now pay LinkedIn for its so-called "talent solutions."
Most employers rely on LinkedIn to find so-called "knowledge" workers who can fill positions that require a college degree or other specialized training. Think: computer programmers, website developers, scientists, accountants, lawyers and executives. Although McDonald's is unlikely to turn to LinkedIn to find a cashier, a coffee shop might use the service to recruit a barista. A ski resort might scour the site in search of ski instructors.
"They are not even scratching the surface of what they might eventually be able to do," said Wedge Partners analyst Martin Pyykkonen.
LinkedIn is expected to generate even more revenue by selling more ads to accompany content such as professional insights from famous executives such as Richard Branson and Jack Welch, as well as other compelling content that induces its membership to visit the site more frequently and dwell for longer periods.
LinkedIn is also working on more analytical tools to sell to sales representatives who are "looking to turn a cold call into a warm prospect," Weiner said.