Microsoft and LinkedIn didn't originally intend to merge, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman recalled Friday. The two companies were just exploring ways they could possibly form partnerships.
But over time, he told an audience of hundreds at a Technology Alliance lunch, it became clear that it made sense for the companies to become one.
"There's this natural alignment," Hoffman said. "Because [LinkedIn is] focused on career and the productivity of individuals, and Microsoft is focused on the productivity of organizations."
Microsoft bought Mountain View, California-based LinkedIn for $27 billion in a deal that closed in December, adding a strong professional networking component to the software company's portfolio.
Hoffman, LinkedIn's co-founder and former executive chairman, joined Microsoft's board of directors in March. That appointment wasn't decided until after the deal had closed, he said Friday.
"We looked at, 'Was the acquisition worth doing on its own? Is it the natural fit for what the company should do?'" he said.
Hoffman, who also serves on the boards of Edmodo, Blockstream and Seattle startup Convoy, said he is already working to connect Microsoft with companies in Silicon Valley, where he lives and has spent his career. He sees many opportunities for potential partnerships.
Microsoft has been much more open to the idea of partnering with other technology firms under current CEO Satya Nadella, who stepped into the role in 2014.
Hoffman said he is also learning from Microsoft executives, particularly Brad Smith, the Redmond company's president and chief legal officer. Silicon Valley companies have a tendency to push ahead without adjusting to local government regulations and politics, he said. From Smith, Hoffman said, he's learned to consider a more "blended strategy."
Hoffman was interviewed Friday by angel investor Sarah Imbach at the 2017 State of the Technology luncheon, an annual event of the Technology Alliance. The organization also honored University of Washington computer science professor Ed Lazowska for his support of technology in the state over nearly four decades.
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