Reid Hoffman: Founding A Startup Is Like 'Throwing Yourself Off A Cliff'

Reid Hoffman

Bloomberg TV

Reid Hoffman

To hear successful entrepreneurs talk about it, founding a startup sounds like something no sane person should try.

LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman says that starting a company is like "throwing yourself off a cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down." So he just told Bloomberg Television's Emily Chang.

This is a similar view to how his friend Elon Musk describes it. In 2010, Tesla and SpaceX founder Musk famously said, “Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death."

Reid faced his almost-crash moment with LinkedIn shortly after it launched. He had hoped that people would simply see how useful it was and that the site would grow fast virally.

But it didn't.

LinkedIn saw just "a trickle" of tech early adopters and not "an explosion," he said. "So, I sat down with the team and said, if we don't solve this, we're dead."

He had only one idea to try: Allow people to upload their email address books to see if their friends had joined.

If that failed, he would have, maybe, one more shot to get people interested in LinkedIn, but he didn't know what else to try.

Fortunately, the address book thing worked and growth spiked.

This month, LinkedIn celebrated its 10-year anniversary. As of January, it had 200 million members in 200 countries.

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