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LinkedIn Agrees to Buy Business Reviews Startup


LinkedIn, the largest networking site for online professionals, bought ChoiceVendor Inc., a website for reviews of business service providers.

ChoiceVendor, a San Francisco startup founded in 2008 by two former Google (GOOG) employees, provides customer reviews about accountants, call centers, payroll services, and other vendors. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed in a LinkedIn statement on Sept. 23.

The deal marks LinkedIn's second acquisition, part of an effort to add talent and technologies from outside the company. That push is being led by Jeff Weiner, who joined Mountain View (Calif.)-based LinkedIn in December 2008 and became chief executive officer six months later. The company bought mSpoke Inc., a recommendation technology, for an undisclosed amount in August.

"You'll continue to see us do acquisitions for talent," Weiner said in an interview with Businessweek.com. "Our top operating priority is building a world-class team."

With ChoiceVendor, LinkedIn gets co-founders Yan-David Erlich, a former product manager at Google and the creator of instant-messaging service Social.im, and Rama Ranganath, a former engineer at Google and Microsoft (MSFT). They founded ChoiceVendor two years ago, after Erlich sold Social.im to iSkoot Inc., and attracted online listings from companies including Aramark, Adobe Systems (ADBE), FedEx (FDX), and Cisco Systems (CSCO), according to ChoiceVendor's website.

Future IPO?

Adding talent and technology tools that appeal to business customers may help LinkedIn win favor with Wall Street should it decide to hold an initial public offering. "The better we execute, the more options we're going to have ahead of us, and IPO would be one of those options," said Weiner, a former executive of Yahoo! (YHOO).

LinkedIn expects to have 900 employees by the end of this year. It generates the bulk of its revenue from advertising and from employee-recruiting services it sells to businesses. The closely held company doesn't disclose its sales. Financial planning and research firm Global Silicon Valley Partners estimates LinkedIn's 2010 revenue will reach $228 million and pegs the company's valuation at $1.87 billion.

In February, Weiner recruited former Yahoo colleague Robbie Kwok to lead acquisitions and other corporate development initiatives at the company.

MacMillan is a reporter for Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Businessweek in San Francisco.

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