In 2002, Reid Hoffman gathered a team of old SocialNet and PayPal colleagues to work on a new idea—a network that allowed professionals to find and connect with one another. Inspired by the defunct Six Degrees business network which rose to prominence in the late nineties and subsequently closed during the dot-com bust in 2000, Hoffman and team set out to build a new, lasting professional network based on identity and connections. As Hoffman explains, he bankrolled the operation at the start to fund the development of the early LinkedIn platform:
“I already had money from PayPal, so I was financing the early portion of it. When there isn’t capital in the bank, there is some anxiety over, ‘Is this thing going to fly at all? Are we going to get enough money to even to go to the venture capitalists?’ I personally bankrolled LinkedIn at the start, so that wasn’t as much of a concern.”
Just six months after the start of development, on May 5th, 2003, LinkedIn officially launched. After the first week, the site had registered close to 12.5K users. Still, according to the company’s own numbers, growth was initially slow, and some days saw as few as twenty signups.