LinkedIn today said it has agreed to acquire ChoiceVendor, an eight-person startup that allows companies to review and recommend business-to-business service providers. This is only the second acquisition in LinkedIn’s eight-year history as a business-oriented social network; the first came last month with the purchase of mSpoke, a data-analysis company. Both deals are aimed at improving LinkedIn’s ability to offer social features to its members, as the company prepares for a potential IPO.
The latest purchase is part of a growth strategy that CEO Jeff Weiner described several months ago, saying the company was preparing to make acquisitions, and that it still had plenty of money left from the two rounds of financing it closed in 2008, which pulled in $78 million from venture-capital groups including Bain Capital, Sequoia and Greylock. “We haven’t touched it,” Weiner told Bloomberg News. The company said it financed the mSpoke acquisition out of its operating cash flow, but no other details have been released about that deal or the ChoiceVendor acquisition.
ChoiceVendor was started in 2008 by Yan-David Erlich, a former Google (s goog) product manager and entrepreneur-in-residence at Battery Ventures who sold a previous startup called Social.im, and Rama Ranganath, a former AdSense engineer at Google. The service collected customer reviews about service providers that corporations typically make use of — including payroll companies, accounting firms, call centers and IT vendors — in much the same way that Yelp and other services do for restaurants and retail outlets.
LinkedIn has spent the past year ramping up the social features offered by the site, in many cases taking a page from the playbook of larger social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The service recently launched sharing features, as well as a “follow” feature that lets users see updates from other users and/or companies. It also launched an app platform that allows developers to add new features to the service using its API, a venture we wrote about at GigaOM Pro (sub req’d). Meanwhile, startups such as BranchOut — which launched earlier this year — have been trying to compete with LinkedIn by adding corporate networking features to the Facebook platform.
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Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Coletivo Mambembe