Microsoft recently closed its biggest deal ever when it officially acquired LinkedIn, the world's largest professional social networking platform, for $26.2 billion. (Recently, I wrote about what makes this deal so special.)
It's true that Microsoft has a penchant for making disastrous deals. (Remember Nokia much?) But Microsoft is thriving under C.E.O. Satya Nadella, who has the old-school company looking fresh again. I also believe the goals and strategies of Microsoft and LinkedIn align perfectly.
Of course, any merger or acquisition is going to have growing pains. But as these two companies begin integrating products and strategy, a single action of Mr. Nadella revealed a key insight into the value he places on LinkedIn's potential.
A Vote of Confidence
In a joint interview shortly before the close of the deal, Nadella and LinkedIn C.E.O. Jeff Weiner offered a window into the next steps of integration.
As reported by The New York Times:
A key difference in the way Microsoft has approached the deal is the degree of independence it plans to give LinkedIn. It will not weave LinkedIn, which is based in Silicon Valley, into one of its existing product lines, nor will it treat it like a disconnected business. Mr. Weiner will remain LinkedIn's chief executive.
So determined was Mr. Nadella to get off on the right foot that he emailed an unusual request to Mr. Weiner a few days after the announcement of their deal in June. He asked Mr. Weiner to take the lead on an integration team responsible for merging their two companies, a responsibility that normally falls to an executive at the acquiring company.
"I had to read it at least twice," Mr. Weiner said. "I did a bit of a double take."
This move says a lot about Nadella's respect for Weiner, and for what LinkedIn has already been able to accomplish under his leadership. In the seven years since Weiner has taken over as C.E.O., LinkedIn has grown membership from 50 million to over 460 million. The company also expanded its scope, by creating a blogging platform, a learning and development center, and even a freelancer-for-hire marketplace.
LinkedIn's vision--which includes creating a digital profile for every company and worker in the world and lifting the global economy--may come off as an idealistic pipe dream to many.
But could Microsoft's reach and resources actually bring it to fruition?
I know what Satya would say.