LinkedIn IPO: How boring became bankable

The LinkedIn IPO had a wildly successful day on Wall Street. The LinkedIn IPO is likely to be followed by others.

Mark Lennihan/AP
Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn's CEO, watches the company's stock pricing May 19, 2011 at the New York Stock Exchange. The LinkedIn IPO saw shares more than double from its $45 initial offering.

LinkedIn never generated the social-media buzz of Facebook and Twitter.

No one has made a movie of its founder, Reid Hoffman, or named him Time Person of the Year in contrast with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. Its network for professionals was never touted as a game-changer the way Twitter has been.

Amid all the hype, LinkedIn has remained plodding – even boring.

All that changed May 19, when plodding and boring became bankable. Very bankable.

As one of the first notable social media companies to go public in this cycle, the LinkedIn IPO immediately shot up from its initial price of $45 a share and closed at $94.25 a share.

That's more than 100 percent profit in a few hours. The lion's share of the profits went to institutional investors, which has many commenters buzzing about whether the investment advisers priced the stock too low in the initial public offering (IPO).

The bigger story, though, is the stock market's enthusiasm for the stock. Not since Google in 2004 has a high-tech IPO drawn so much positive attention.

Why has LinkedIn's IPO been so successful? One reason is that it's the first social network to go public, leading the way for other popular social sites like Groupon and perhaps Facebook to go public.

It's also successful because it's boring in a very button-down, understandable way. The network is built so career-minded people can keep track of other career-minded friends and acquaintances throughout their working lives.

LinkedIn users don't share photos of their recent trip to Ecuador. They write each other recommendations, which turns out to be extremely useful for businesses looking to hire.

LinkedIn users don't tweet. Then again, the company has figured out how to make money (roughly $100 million in 2009, through advertising, subscriptions for premium users, and research) where Twitter has not.

Some fear that the enthusiasm may have gotten ahead of the reality, which is why some analysts worried that LinkedIn marks the beginnings of another high-tech bubble. Others, however, suggest that the LinkedIn IPO marks instead the beginning of a stream of IPOs that have a more recognizable and reasonable business plan than many of the dot-coms of 1999.

“The IPO pipeline is as strong as it has been in years," Peter Falvey of Morgan Keegan told CNBC, “partially because the challenging IPO market in the last three years translates into a large supply of more mature companies that should do well after executing an IPO.”

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