Why LinkedIn does not work in China? This is one of the hottest questions being discussed recently in China because Linkedin went to IPO and apparently the massive Chinese market has no real professional social networks yet. A hedge fund manager recently gave me a very interesting point of view, which I also agreed.

He said the reason why LinkedIn becomes successful in the U.S. is that: there are many professionals (accountants, consultants, lawyers, engineers, etc.) with 10+ years, 20+ years or 30+ years of experience looking for jobs in the U.S.  They post their resume on LinkedIn, so that recruiters can find them.

Many of the LinkedIn users are doing that – posting their resume on their LinkedIn account. In fact, recruitment accounts for 65% of LinkedIn’s revenue.

The situation is different in China.  Deng Xiao Ping’s economic reform did not happen until 1980s.  There are no business professional with over 30 years experience.  In fact, those with 15+ or 10+ years experience are already rare commodity in the market and they are bombarded by phone calls of headhunters almost everyday.  There is no need to post their resume online for job purpose.

“Maybe in 10 years, Chinese LinkedIn will work, when there are more business professional with 10 or 20 years of experience looking for jobs,” said the hedge fund manager.

This reminds me of the interview with the CEO of Wealink, one of the earliest Linkein in China. Its CEO said,

Professional social network needs white-collar users which are mainly based in several tier-one cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, so there actually is not much room for a Chinese Linkedin to grow quickly.

We may have a big Chinese Linkedin unless it can find something else that is valuable to the business professionals.  Right now the players are trying:

  • Tianji told me they have a lot of discussion forum, groups and activities, to help   the business professionals to socialize with each other.  And hopefully, friendship built this way can extend to business.
  • Hengzhi said they have 8 business applications for the users to manage their daily agenda, such as  contact management, Q&A, and Power Point document sharing.

But so far, they haven’t found the “killer app” yet.  All the Chinese LinkedIn clones are still struggling. Whoever found what the Chinese professional need the most will be the winner.  Or just as the hedge fund manager suggested we just have to wait another 5-10 years.