There is a lot of talk since yesterday about the Microsoft acquisition of Linkedin, about how it makes sense, about how it doesn’t and about many of the obvious opportunities for merging their products and customer bases. I have a different take which I’d like to share with you.
Until recently, I was building what several leading analysts, academics and corporate executives called a “Linkedin Killer”. Ultimately, it may one day still be just that, or perhaps it is a view of the bigger picture of what might come from the $26 Billion acquisition.
While my company building efforts with Alynd and then Will Someone were not a success, I did, once again, identify a need, add fuel to a trend and build forward looking products that are exemplars from the future of work. While the stories and marketing position you read on those web sites may not make it obvious that my goal was to kill Linkedin, I assure you the bigger story of how it all could work together, while ambitious, was just that. After endeavoring tirelessly for three years, I am now in the process of closing the company and seeking a team where I might contribute my experience and perhaps even the IP I’ve been developing.
How Could We Kill Linkedin?
First, the evolution of the market is already killing it slowly as many others have reported. Resumes are becoming an artifact of our past. In the world where people use their time and talents for multiple types of work/gigs every day, each valued differently, what value is a prior job title that is given out differently at different organizations with different meanings? It’s only really a proxy as it is, an imperfect one at that by every measure.
So reputation is now replacing resumes, particularly given the opportunity to create verifiable digital audit trails of our actual work with others. We can now easily embed a reputations building function using blockchain like technology into the existing systems we use. This is why I created Alynd originally, to not only improve how we collaborate with each other in a more agile manner, but also to capture data I would not otherwise be able to get out of other systems that would reflect a true measure of someone’s capability, integrity and reliability.
I believe this is where Microsoft has a real opportunity as they now have both sides of that puzzle, and while Windows Live ID from Microsoft is being used, there is no reputational or other identity component to it outside of work teams and XBox Live (IMHO, pls correct me if I am wrong here).
The Bigger Microsoft Opportunity
Since you are a high performance worker, a great collaborator and a person of integrity who kicks as at their job, imagine the following scenario. Through Outlook or Office 365, MS has date time stamped record of your emails, your document edits, your calendar appointments and more. It knows who you are really connected to, who you go to for answering difficult questions and who you actually work with regularly. It also now has Artificial Intelligence that can infer an awful lot about things like how often you deliver your work on time, provided needed expertise to a colleague, covered for a coworker who dropped the ball and even what expertise you have published among other insights.
So what if, since you were a person of high integrity, you opted into a program which would show your high character and professional capabilities on your professional MS Linkedin profile? What if your profile had an indicator that showed you delivered 95% of your work on time or early? Or you only rescheduled 10% of your meetings? Or you were the go to person for everyone in your organization with an email marketing question?
What if you were, as an independent contractor, or as someone looking for a new job, able to offer your time/talent through a global market place to other amazing people who were doing really great projects? Would that be interesting to you? A digital labor market of only the best people, of only the people who have the highest integrity, the greatest talents and as you might guess, get the highest rates as a result.
All of that and more is possible. That is what I have been working towards with Alynd first, then Will Someone and now as a personal project where I am learning to code with IBM Bluemix, for a simpler version of the reputation platform Relyable.
Of course, whether or not the market would accept it and use it is the key question. Still, there are hundreds of variants of this concept that could be simplified and made to work on the way towards this bigger vision, all of which could be beneficial to all participants in the 3 sided marketplaces out there like UpWork and Fiverr. But each one of them is a strategy that would serve to co-create greater value and turn Linkedin into the premiere default business talent directory for the gig economy. Something it does not do now, but which Jeff Weiner recently spoke about as part of their 3 prong approach to the future. (Can’t find the link to that speech, do you have it?)
Specifically, what sort of features might this entail?
I should first point out that any social network could build a team to pursue this opportunity as persistent digital identity is the core necessity. So this is a concept I had thought of taking to Jack Dorsey at Twitter as much as bringing it to Google and Facebook. But a Llinkedinin/Microsoft collaboration makes it so much easier to execute on at scale given the assets they have and positions they hold in the market.
Some of the core features I expect to see would be:
- An aggregated labor market where people are able to offer their services, integrated with a calendar and supported by AI to fill in any openings to maximize your income potential
- A single login for multiple email accounts into multiple systems with a multi faceted reputational identity
- An aggregated evidence based reputation system using all the data from your collaboration systems/email, simple contracts and performance feedback
- A “simple contract” built on blockchain to enable gig based payments on demand when work is completed/delivered and reviewed.An artificially intelligent assistant prioritizing, scheduling and alerting you (Cortana ++)
- An organized view of all your published media as well as other media appearances as related to your talents and marketable skills built dynamically
- Learning paths to guide engaged talent to their best possible selves (already have most of this, but with the new data can find out what other experts used to learn and grow as the basis for dynamically improving over time)
- Micro mentorship opportunities to help connect and guide others in your profession towards professional growth (from groups to guilds)
- An integrated folksonomy across apps to ease organization and retrieval from different contexts
- So much more I won’t share today but will be glad to talk about soon…
What now? What next?
I for one am very interested in seeing what comes next, but for now I expect they have a lot of cultural integration and politicking to figure out. So we may not see anything big for a while, but I expect to see some interesting things quickly given how Linkedin re-architected their platform a few years ago. I hope so at least as this is a chance to fulfill the vision I have been chasing for years… to build out the next generation socioeconomic infrastructure for a more efficient, higher integrity labor market. One in which there will be drastic decreases in wasted efforts and never before seen improvements to the efficiency of shared value creation. If it works as I see it, there will be huge increases in health and happiness too as we move to drive out the worst aspects of working together today.
If they don’t do this, it would be a real shame. Or perhaps you see it as an opportunity, in which case, please reach out to me to talk personally about the other ways we might be able to manifest this and my broader vision. While I am looking for my next opportunity due to the financial reality I face today, I remain excited about this vision and know it will eventually come to be, so it might as well be us building it.
What do you think about these ideas for Linkedin + Microsoft? Too far fetched? Would you opt in?