Konstantin Guericke

Konstantin Guericke

Konstantin Guericke


Konstantin Guericke is a web 2.0 pioneer and co-founder of LinkedIn, the world’s largest online business network. Guericke first came to the United States as a high school exchange student and then returned to pursue further studies at Stanford University. Benefiting from a unique environment for innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration, he found pathways to Silicon Valley’s high tech start-up scene.


Konstantin Guericke (born September 19, 1967 in Hamburg, Germany) is a web 2.0 pioneer and co-founder of LinkedIn, the world’s largest online business network.[1] His story represents that of a generation of immigrants who came to the U.S. for higher education. Guericke first spent a high school exchange year in Pennsylvania and then returned to the United States to pursue further studies at Stanford University, where he received a master’s degree from the School of Engineering. Benefiting from a unique environment for innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration, he found pathways to Silicon Valley’s high tech start-up scene.

Recognizing the potential of the Internet with its vast networking possibilities, Konstantin Guericke and his future co-founder Reid Hoffman developed the idea for a business-oriented online network for professionals. In May 2003 LinkedIn was officially released. At the company Guericke led marketing activities from launch to the first six million members and from there to profitability in 2006. Once the platform's growth had become self-sustaining, he left LinkedIn to seek new challenges. Five years later, in 2011, LinkedIn went public. It was the biggest Internet IPO since Google’s debut in 2004 which gave the online business network a value of $4.25 billion.[2] Today Konstantin Guericke is a partner at the German venture capital firm Earlybird through which he supports entrepreneurial ventures which have the potential to be a success on a worldwide scale.

Family Background and Education

Konstantin Guericke (born on September 19, 1967, in Hamburg, Germany) grew up in Zeven, a small town in northern Germany in the geographical region between Bremen, Hamburg, and Cuxhaven, the so-called “Elbe-Weser Triangle.” Despite the large urban nature of the Hanseatic cities Hamburg and Bremen, the “Elbe-Weser Triangle” has always been a more rural area. Historically and politically it corresponds roughly to the former territory of the Duchies of Bremen and Verden. Zeven, with a population of 14,000 amid a landscape of forests and peatlands, has hosted a number of companies within the food and rubber industry whose reputations extend far beyond northern Germany. Among the most distinguished of these is DMK, “Deutsches Milchkontor GmbH,” the largest dairy company in Germany.

Guericke comes from a family with no entrepreneurial background; his parents were secondary school teachers. He grew up in placid surroundings and secure, but modest, financial circumstances. Guericke attended Gymnasium (secondary school) in Zeven. At the age of fifteen, he spent a year as an exchange student in St. Marys in northwestern Pennsylvania, living with an American host family. Intercultural student exchanges between the United States and Germany as part of the German-American friendship had become more and more popular, especially as a means for German students to improve their English language skills. But Guericke was driven by a broader curiosity—the desire “to see something new.”[3] That his stay abroad led him to the United States in particular was, however, more a coincidence than a conscious decision.

As it turned out, St. Marys, which lies in the center of Pennsylvania's elk county and is known as a game hunter’s paradise, was an even more tranquil and sleepy town than Zeven.[4] While living in the U.S., Guericke became interested in American institutions of higher education and investigated study opportunities at Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton, traveling to nearby universities and sampling the life there. He came to appreciate the residential campus life which combined traditional studies with social activities such as student clubs, organizations, and sports. The holistic nature of American higher education, which emphasizes individual growth, and the personal contact between faculty and students reinforced Guericke's decision to study in the United States.

After completing twelfth grade in Pennsylvania, Guericke earned his high school diploma and thereby access to higher education in the United States. At the request of his parents he returned to Germany to finish Gymnasium, but in 1986 went back to the United States to pursue further studies. Because the non-resident tuition fee at American colleges and universities was beyond his means, Guericke had to rely on a scholarship and applied to some of the top private universities, including Harvard and Stanford. In his recollection, this was due to a very practical reason: at that time only a handful of colleges, all of them private, offered financial aid to foreign students. Plus, America’s best institutions of higher education had been broadening their accessibility to middle class students since the 1970s.

By this time Guericke had acquired a strong interest in technology, especially in the flourishing field of software development, which he saw as one of the keys to the future. Stanford was his first choice—the university’s geographic proximity to the high technology area of Silicon Valley being a prime consideration. Guericke was thrilled when he was admitted to Stanford, and the university's need-blind admissions policy meant that he would get a package of loans and scholarships enabling him to attend.

At Stanford he created his own interdisciplinary major: Innovation, Technology, and Organizations. He combined engineering courses with social and psychology classes because he was interested in exploring the intersection of psychology, sociology, and computing. But Guericke did not pursue an engineering career. From the beginning he was highly ambitious and determined to be an innovator, focusing on business and entrepreneurship. During his studies Guericke attended an entrepreneurship course where successful Stanford entrepreneurs shared the story of how they started their high-tech startups. It was in this course that he established his first contacts with successful high technology entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley. The open-minded culture of innovative entrepreneurship at Stanford University had a strong impact on Guericke and encouraged him to start his own technology business when the time was right.

High tech entrepreneurship education and scholarly research on technology firms have had a long tradition at Stanford University, with industry and academia collaborating successfully in a number of ways. Frederick E. Terman (1900–1982), a professor of electrical engineering who served as provost from 1955 to 1965, played a key role in fostering close ties between Stanford and the emerging technology industry.[5] He realized that organized interaction with the local tech industry could provide not only financial assistance but also intellectual support and innovative stimulation for both faculty and students. Terman promoted the development of Stanford Industrial Park (now known as Stanford Research Park), one of the world's first industrial parks and a cornerstone of what is today known as Silicon Valley.[6]

During his tenure Terman greatly expanded the research capability of the science, statistics, and engineering departments, raising “steeples of excellence”—clusters of science in the School of Engineering.[7] He helped transform Stanford University from a financially struggling regional university to an internationally recognized university attracting the best students from around the world to the region. Terman energetically encouraged his students to stay in the area after graduation and use their knowledge to start their own businesses, converting scientific innovations into useful products and services. Two prominent beneficiaries of this vision were Stanford alumni William Hewlett and David Packard, who established their fledgling electronics company in a Palo Alto garage with Terman's support and went on to become one of the leading personal computer manufacturers. Other successful companies founded by Stanford faculty and former (often foreign-born) students include Sun Microsystems, Yahoo, PayPal, and Google.

Business Development: Social Network Sites and LinkedIn

From the 1970s on Silicon Valley attracted not only start-up companies, but a whole infrastructure devoted to promoting, assisting, and rewarding risk-takers in new technologies. An increasing number of venture capital firms began to settle in the Bay Area on Sand Hill Road, which favored the rise of the technology industry. From the early 1980s onward, many national and international law firms opened offices in San Francisco and Palo Alto in order to provide Silicon Valley start-ups with legal services. The infrastructure also included a host of marketing and employment agencies.

When Konstantin Guericke graduated from Stanford in 1991, semiconductors were still a major component of the area's economy, which had led to the term “Silicon Valley.” But in the course of the 1990s a new generation of high technology industries began to concentrate in the Valley. Improvements in computer software, hardware performance, and Internet connection technology caused a marked increase in computers and Internet usage by individuals and firms. The area began to be known for innovations in software and Internet services. As a result, several markets, including e-commerce, communities, and collaboration, grew significantly.

After graduating Guericke chose to remain permanently in the Bay Area, following the example of many highly skilled immigrants who initially came to the U.S. to earn an engineering degree, but then accepted jobs in Silicon Valley rather than return to their home countries where professional opportunities or the start-up infrastructure were relatively limited. By the end of the 1990s, over half of Silicon Valley’s two hundred thousand scientists and engineers were foreign-born.[8]

To gain entrepreneurial experience, Guericke started working for several small start-ups in the software and Internet industries in Silicon Valley, where he soon held key positions in marketing. In addition, he worked informally as a consultant for various information technology companies. In the following years, these jobs led Guericke to develop and maintain a valuable professional network which he described as his “social capital.”[9] Pursuing a very simple but effective strategy, he would meet people to chat informally over lunch. As his circle of contacts expanded, Guericke came to realize that these relationships were one of the most valuable assets he possessed.

In 1996 when Guericke worked as vice president in marketing at Black Sun Interactive, a pioneering company in 3-D social software, he met Reid Hoffman, at that time a product manager at Fujitsu Software Corporation. Hoffman was a California-born graduate of Stanford University and Oxford University, in his late twenties and, like Guericke, highly talented and creative. Both men were involved in online communities and met as participants on a panel in San Francisco about the subject.

In 1997, Hoffman, who had been experimenting with the idea of online social networks for some time, started one of the first networking sites, a dating service called SocialNet, but his foray into social media did not take root.[10] Still, Guericke and Hoffman persisted, and together began discussing the burgeoning online-community market—why some web sites worked and why others failed.[11] Both had been quick to observe the potential of the Internet to connect people in unprecedented ways. On long walks together they brainstormed how a useful tool for professionals could be built to store, present, and manage each member's existing network of business relationships and thereby promote each member's career.

In the late 1990s the first social network services emerged. Many of those web sites had a strong focus on dating and friendship. In 1997, one of the earliest modern social networking sites was launched, founded by financial analyst and legal professional Andrew Weinreich.[12] SixDegrees was built upon real relationships between real people, using their real names for interactions. It was the first site to combine personal profiles, instant messaging, and the ability to invite friends to the platform as well as to view and search their lists of connections.[13] Users joined SixDegrees after receiving an email introduction from an existing member—a trendsetting method of recruitment at this time that would be imitated by subsequent social networks. SixDegrees was the predecessor to sites like MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook.[14]

During its heyday, SixDegrees reached more than 3.2 million registered users in 165 countries.[15] Despite venture capital financing, Weinreich was not able to convert the site into a profitable business. The pioneering site lacked key features such as spam filters and personal photographs, an integral part of today’s social networking sites. Unable to reach profitability, SixDegrees was sold for $125 million in early 2000 and ultimately shut down at the end of 2000. Looking back, Weinreich believed that SixDegrees was ahead of its time, since digital cameras were not ubiquitous and most people did not have extended networks of friends who were online.[16]

LinkedIn was founded as part of a second generation of social network sites in the early 2000s after the “dot-com bubble,” a time of great enthusiasm about the prosperous “new economy” promised by the rapidly expanding Internet sector, burst. The boom was followed by a rapid decline in stock prices. Eventually, “web 2.0” emerged: social networks as well as blogs, wikis, podcasting, RSS feeds and file sharing tools belonged to a number of new advanced Internet applications which focused on collaboration and interactive information sharing.

Between 2001 and 2004 about thirty social networking start-ups were launched.[17] These new services fell into two major categories: Web sites with a focus on social relationships such as friendship, dating, or marriage; and sites devoted to business/professional networking, helping users to find jobs, people, or business opportunities. In 2001, one year before LinkedIn was founded, Ryze was launched by Adrian Scott, an early investor in the file sharing site Napster. It was similar to LinkedIn and was intended as a tool to help business professionals build and expand their contacts. Ryze, which grew out of a real-world networking club, claims for itself to be the “original online social & business network” and became a role model for other business-oriented network sites.[18] It offered a free basic membership, allowing users to create individual personality profiles, and paid premium services such as advanced searches. The site, which initially focused on the high tech community, became a main competitor for LinkedIn at the beginning, but never acquired the mass popularity that LinkedIn did.[19] The people behind Ryze had close ties with the founders of several other social network sites launched shortly afterwards, among them LinkedIn, Tribe, and Friendster. They all were members of Silicon Valley’s business and technology community and tightly entwined personally and professionally.

In 2002, Guericke and Hoffman, who had just left PayPal, revived their regular meetings. Not long after that Friendster was launched, a Silicon Valley based social networking start-up for dating and making new friends via friends-of-friends connections. Friendster attracted more than three million registered users by fall 2002 but failed to solidify its position as the “pioneering front-runner in social networking.”[20] The surging popularity of Friendster led Guericke and Hoffman to pursue the idea of their own social network for business professionals which would help them to connect online. They studied the development of those social media start-ups—many of which were based in Silicon Valley—very closely, particularly the question how they were going to make a profit. Guericke described it as “taking lessons from the pioneers and not repeating the same mistakes again.” Both entrepreneurs felt that the timing was good.[21]

In October 2002, Hoffman gathered a team of people from his personal network of former colleagues from SocialNet and PayPal to work on their new idea. The core team consisted of three other talented Silicon Valley professionals—Allen Blue, Jean-Luc Vaillant, and Eric Ly—who were all highly skilled and brought engineering and technology know-how to the team. The founders divided management responsibilities among them: while Hoffman became chief executive officer at LinkedIn, Guericke was intended to lead the company's marketing activities as vice president of marketing based on his prior work experience. LinkedIn started out in Reid Hoffman's apartment in Mountain View, California, in late 2002, where details for the new Internet platform were developed and coding commenced. After securing office space in Mountain View, LinkedIn officially launched on May 5, 2003.

Using the first version of LinkedIn, members could create a profile which could be as basic as one’s name, one’s geographic area and industry or as broad as an entire work history, consisting of educational attainments, detailed work experience, and other relevant business data. In addition, users could invite their own personal contacts to the network to become a connection. One goal of LinkedIn was to connect people who already knew each other in the real world on its network platform. The founders of LinkedIn believed that these relationships were built on trust—that members would only invite and accept connections to people they trust, who they have experience working with, and who could be seen as personal references. From the beginning the implied mutual trust in the relationships was a great strength of LinkedIn. Furthermore, in order to distinguish the site from a purely social network, LinkedIn was launched without profile pictures.

Based on the concept of six degrees of separation, which suggests that any two people are connected by an average of six steps of connection or fewer, LinkedIn allowed registered users to build a contact network, benefiting not only from their direct associates, but also the associates of those associates, etc. The platform helped members map and exploit a network of business relationships and contacts much broader than the ones they maintained in real life. An important feature was that users could search the profiles in their extended network out to four degrees of separation to find someone with specific capabilities. Having found the right candidate, they could use the network to ask for an introduction. In this way the platform paved the way for a new kind of professional people search.

At first, LinkedIn’s founders invited three hundred and fifty of their most important contacts—primarily members of the Silicon Valley high tech community—to join the site. These contacts invited others, who in turn introduced others. By the end of the first month in operation LinkedIn had a total of 4,500 members sign up.[22]At the end of 2003, the web site had over 81,000 members and LinkedIn had fourteen employees. And yet, LinkedIn’s survival was never a foregone conclusion: after the dot-com bubble burst, consumer Internet ventures were looked upon with skepticism, and the founders worked hard to distinguish LinkedIn from other, similar ventures.

In the following months the platform continued to grow fast. By April 2004 it had 550,000 users; a year later membership reached 4.5 million.[23]Without any advertising the network successfully spread from person to person through a viral process. One main reason for the rapid growth of the platform was that LinkedIn’s strategy enlisted members as marketing agents, motivating users to invite their friends or professional acquaintances to the platform and spread the word about the new service.[24] By doing so, they increased their accessible network. Although anyone could become a member, the majority of users joined by accepting an invitation from an existing member.[25]In order to mobilize its recruitment network, LinkedIn successfully pursued a two-staged approach: first it attracted a critical mass of job seekers, then it focused on recruiters.[26]As the network expanded, it created substantial value to its users, finding the right person for business deals, expertise, and recruiting. Each new member made LinkedIn more useful by contributing his/her professional profile as well as his/her trusted contacts to the network.

Among the first user groups who adopted LinkedIn were business executives, researchers, venture capitalists, professional recruiters, and hiring managers. In contrast to social networks like Friendster and MySpace, LinkedIn “took a more serious, sober approach to the social networking phenomenon” and sought from the beginning to focus on business professionals.[27] The platform was aimed at users between twenty-five and sixty-five years of age—according to Guericke an audience with a greater monetary potential than a younger target group.[28]LinkedIn intended to be a useful career networking tool for people whose professional needs were in the foreground and who were willing to pay for premium services. In an interview in 2006, Guericke explained what made LinkedIn different from other social networks: “We're here to build a business, not to create something cool. MySpace and Facebook have done really well. And I think they can monetize what they have built, probably by adding in more e-commerce. But I think the opportunity on the business side is ultimately larger.”[29]

As with many other business ventures in Silicon Valley, the strong venture capital infrastructure based in the region played an important role in the development and growth of LinkedIn. Hoffman had personally bankrolled LinkedIn at the start in order to keep the service running. After the initial start-up phase, the venture sought a more professional way of raising additional funds. In November 2003 it received $4.7 million of venture capital financing from Sequoia Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s most influential venture capital firms which had made prior investments in well-known Internet companies such as Yahoo, Google, and PayPal.[30]The funding helped LinkedIn in several respects. On the one hand the platform received more attention in the Valley’s community and beyond, and on the other hand the funding was used to accelerate the development of additional networking features like interest groups and an address book upload. Not long after closing the first round of venture capital funding, the start-up moved to a larger office in Mountain View, California.

In summer 2005, Guericke and Hoffman had to decide on a revenue-generating strategy to exploit LinkedIn’s multimillion-user base.[31] By this time the site had attracted more than three million businesspeople, but had little revenue to show its investors. Built upon LinkedIn’s professional network, the first revenue stream was introduced in March 2005 when the company released a fee-based job listing service. The new service, named “LinkedIn Jobs,” was announced as “the Internet’s first relationship-powered job network that connects job applicants with the hiring managers, HR professionals or recruiters representing the jobs listed on LinkedIn.”[32]LinkedIn Jobs allowed recruiters to post a job advertisement for $95 per listing. It also enabled them to collect unique data on applicants, e.g. referrals or independent references for candidates, providing valuable insights into their trustworthiness and reliability.[33]These factors were difficult to assess through résumés and interviews alone. Job seekers, on the other hand, found open positions, received background information on the job poster, and could learn which of their existing professional contacts were in a position to introduce them to the recruiter or hiring manager of a target company.

By adding this application to the platform, LinkedIn focused on the recruiting industry as a key market. Guericke and Hoffman saw the potential of the platform to replace traditional job advertisements in newspapers, on classifieds web sites and job-search sites. Among the competitors they targeted was Monster, a leading online recruitment service founded in 1994 by Jeff Taylor. Unlike those conventional recruiting sites with a dictionary of private résumés, LinkedIn provided a networked résumé document—in Reid Hoffman’s words “a résumé 2.0: When you’re finding people on LinkedIn, you’re finding them through a network as opposed to a résumé database.”[34]With this business strategy, he predicted, LinkedIn would change both offline and online recruitment in the long run.

In August 2005 LinkedIn secured a second significant revenue stream with subscription-based premium services, among them business accounts for recruiters and researchers with advanced search tools and a direct communication mechanism called InMail, which allowed members to contact other members without an intermediate referral. With InMail, the company changed a basic design feature of LinkedIn.[35]Business accounts holders were charged a monthly fee between $15 and $50, depending on the upgrade. Within the next months LinkedIn launched additional subscription products, targeting network members who frequently needed to contact professionals as part of their job. By upgrading, recruiters and researchers could find job candidates and experts not just from their networks, but also from the complete LinkedIn network of 3.3 million registered professionals. This business line helped LinkedIn to reach its target of becoming a profitable business in the first quarter of 2006.[36]A third important revenue stream came from online advertising, targeted to specific members based on their profile information, which LinkedIn sold to businesses.

With this diversified business model that offered different solutions to different types of users, LinkedIn reached five million registered users in March 2006. The platform had established itself as the world’s largest online business network within three years after its launch. By growing its corporate platform and adjusting its design to fit the constantly shifting industry, LinkedIn found the “sweet spot” of profitability.

LinkedIn expanded rapidly from its Silicon Valley roots, gaining users not only in the U.S., but in over eighty countries—and 120 industries—as well. The openness of American consumers to innovative new products, particularly software, contributed significantly to LinkedIn’s success. After the network had been successfully established in the U.S., it began to push into other countries. In Europe, the network had 370,000 registered users by October 2004, but faced competition from local networking sites for professionals which many countries had started to develop. European main competitors such as the business networks Viadeo and Xing (former open BC), today’s market-leading network in the German-speaking countries, tried to enter further markets across the continent and beyond. It would take until 2009 for a German version of LinkedIn to be launched. As the largest economy in Europe and a country with high social and professional networking adoption rates, Germany represented an important market for LinkedIn.

Life after LinkedIn

Once LinkedIn's growth had become self-sustaining, Guericke sought new challenges. He represented an independent, highly mobile base of talent which has been an important characteristic of Silicon Valley’s culture for many years. Professionals in the Bay Area are more willing to move from one company to another, from one exciting project to the next, because they have a “deep commitment to the larger overall cause of ‘creating the future’,” developing technologies that will improve people’s lives.[37] The fluid movement of labor has enabled a greater exchange of ideas and expertise throughout the region, leading to greater productivity and higher innovation.

After three years of leading marketing activities at LinkedIn, Guericke started joining advisory boards in 2005. Thus far in his career he had mainly worked on the marketing side, but as time went on he became more and more interested in product development. In late 2006, Guericke was given the opportunity to become chief executive at Jaxtr, a social communication start-up located in Menlo Park. He left LinkedIn in December 2006, but continued to consult the company on its international expansion. Jaxtr at that time offered free phone calls and text messages through voice over IP to personal computers and mobile phones. Despite its rapid growth in 2007 which led to over ten million users in 220 countries by 2008, the company ran into difficulty in monetizing its technology.[38] A few months after closing an $11 million funding round in summer 2008, Jaxtr was forced to lay off thirteen employees.[39] Not long after that it was forced to acknowledge its failure to reach mass popularity. Guericke resigned in the fall of 2008 and in June 2009 Jaxtr was acquired by Hotmail founder Sabeer Bhatia for an unknown sum. After Jaxtr Guericke took a year off to spend more time with his wife and two young daughters. The failure of Jaxtr had no impact on his career, since failures are acknowledged as much as successes in the risk-taking culture of Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs see them as “part of the process and (…) as opportunities to learn, grow and improve.”[40]

At present Guericke is looking back across the Atlantic and is in great demand as a networker and advisor supporting German start-ups. In May 2012 he joined Earlybird, a European venture capital firm with offices in Berlin, Munich, and Milan, as a U.S.-based venture partner and liaison between Berlin and Silicon Valley. In April 2014, Guericke expanded his role at Earlybird and became managing partner.[41] He is one of the many U.S.-educated, highly talented immigrant entrepreneurs in the high tech sector “who have the linguistic and cultural abilities as well as the institutional knowledge to collaborate with their home-country counterparts.”[42] In a press note Guericke explained: “I have been interested for some time in supporting German entrepreneurial ventures that are not copycats, but have the potential to be a success on a worldwide scale.”[43]At Earlybird, Guericke is not making investments, but guiding the thinking behind them.[44] He uses his unique cross-cultural background to help innovative German and European start-ups enter the American market, creating cross-regional collaborations thanks to his immigrant and entrepreneurial experience.[45] As another recent activity he joined the board of Doximity in March 2012, an online professional network for U.S. physicians and health care professionals.

Integration, Social Status, and Public Life

For Guericke it was not difficult to become part of Silicon Valley‘s community and to build his own business. Ethnic diversity has always been a part of Silicon Valley's open-minded culture. More than 60 percent of the college graduates working in science and engineering fields in Silicon Valley were born outside of the U.S. and start-ups are increasingly formed by nationals of foreign countries.[46]In an interview Guericke noted: “It is rather strange that someone comes from San Francisco or the U.S., because almost everyone comes from somewhere else.”[47] Today about fifty thousand Germans live in Silicon Valley,[48] but immigrants from Asia represent the largest group of immigrants in the region.[49]In retrospect Guericke sees it as an advantage to have attended high school and college in the U.S. because it contributed to a strong identification with the American culture. Above all he greatly benefited from his studies at Stanford University which helped him develop a network of useful contacts. According to Guericke he has never specifically considered himself a German in Silicon Valley. In his view the greatest obstacles to Silicon Valley immigrants are legal barriers like obtaining a visa or a green card.

The immigrant background does play an important role in how Guericke is perceived from the outside. In the German media he is seen as a sought-after expert for social networking and the Silicon Valley start-up scene and serves as a prime example of the successful German entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. He is often described in terms of “one of the best known persons in German Internet start-up history” or as the German who has made “the breakthrough in Silicon Valley.” Recently, German weekly news magazine Focus selected Guericke as one of ten “German top stars in Silicon Valley.”[50] The reason for such attributions must be seen against the backdrop that German entrepreneurs are underrepresented on the global Internet market.[51] Germany has created very few globally successful high tech companies.

Guericke still has close ties to LinkedIn and admits being an avid user of the network even though he is no longer involved in running it. On his LinkedIn profile he holds the special status of the network’s “biggest fan.” After LinkedIn and Jaxtr Guericke has slowed down, finding a new role in advising promising start-ups in order to spend more time with his family and pursue other personal interests.

Like many other Stanford University entrepreneurial alumni Guericke has always been keenly dedicated to his alma mater. Giving back to their university has a strong tradition among former students. Without the excellent education and valuable contact network that Stanford provided, many entrepreneurial alumni who have made their fortunes in Silicon Valley wouldn’t be in their current, often high-salaried positions. Alumni have played a key role in maintaining the university’s expansion and improvement. Since 2011 Guericke is a pro-bono mentor for student entrepreneurs at Stanford University, helping them grow their companies and providing guidance on vision and strategy.[52]In an interview in 2012 he explained his motivation: “I graduated from Stanford's engineering school. I benefited from people in the industry coming to the campus, so I feel like I should give back. I have started doing more things on campus. Meeting smart, great students who are the next generation of entrepreneurs is incredibly rewarding to me.”[53] Guericke, who is an enthusiastic hiker, often invites students to join him on walks on the Stanford campus to discuss their business ideas. In addition to his mentoring work, he is a guest lecturer in entrepreneurship courses at Stanford University.

Despite the media attention Guericke keeps his personal life private. He is married with two daughters and lives with his family in California. As an Earlybird partner he regularly travels to Berlin for work as well as visits his parents in northern Germany.


Konstantin Guericke is part of a new class of U.S.-educated, highly talented immigrant entrepreneurs in the high tech sector. He comes from a teacher’s family with no entrepreneurial background but in which education played an important role. Education was the main reason he came to the U.S., first as a teenager attending high school in Pennsylvania and then as a student at Stanford University. The unique style of education at Stanford, which combined a strong entrepreneurial spirit with a meritocratic culture, had a strong impact on Guericke's career.

After graduation Guericke quickly worked his way up to leading marketing positions in software and Internet start-up businesses in Silicon Valley. A talented networker, he helped build—as co-founder of LinkedIn—a unique platform allowing professionals to establish their profiles and reputations not simply as résumés, but as valuable, permanent, searchable resources attracting opportunities and attention. With the creation of LinkedIn he has helped revolutionize professional networking, recruiting, and job seeking. In May 2011, LinkedIn was one of the first social media companies to go public. It offered shares at a price of $45 per share giving the professional networking web site a value of $4.25 billion.[54] Although the IPO has received mixed reviews by analysts evoking memories of the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, LinkedIn has managed to consolidate its position in the social media landscape as the world’s largest online professional network with more than three hundred million members in over two hundred countries.[55] While the post-IPO success of other Internet companies such as Facebook and Groupon has been uneven, three years after going public LinkedIn has been consistently trading at more than three times its initial $45 IPO price.

The challenge of technical novelty has remained a strong motivation as well as an intellectual stimulation for Guericke and still drives his professional life; he has always had a passion for new products that have the potential to improve people's lives. The drive to innovate led him to leave LinkedIn in 2006 after four years as vice president of marketing in order to take up a new challenge with social communication start-up Jaxtr. In addition, his mentoring work at Stanford University has provided him great satisfaction beyond monetary rewards.

Guericke has become one of only a few German-born entrepreneurs who has made a remarkable career in Silicon Valley’s high technology industry. His more recent business ventures also document the transfer of institutional and entrepreneurial knowledge from the U.S. back to his home country, creating cross-regional collaborations between Silicon Valley and the aspiring German high technology start-up sector centered in Berlin.


[1] The author would like to thank Kurt Tolksdorf for his helpful support in editing and proofreading this article.

[2] Stu Woo, Lynn Cowan, “LinkedIn Price at High End,” The Wall Street Journal (accessed May 26, 2014).

[3] Konstantin Guericke, interview by I. Brandt, September 30, 2013.

[4] Nadine Boes, “Konstantin Guericke: Netzwerker in Wanderschuhen,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, October 12, 2009, (accessed July 10, 2013).

[5] History of Stanford, “The Rise of Silicon Valley,” (accessed July 10, 2013).

[6] C. Stewart Gillmor, Fred Terman at Stanford: Building a Discipline, a University, and Silicon Valley (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), 327–336.

[7] History of Stanford.

[8] Anna Lee Saxenian, The New Argonauts, IMF World Bank Paper, 101, (accessed July 10, 2013).

[9] Boes, “Konstantin Guericke.”

[10] Evelyn M. Rusli, “A King of Connections Is Tech’s Go-To Guy,” The New York Times, November 5, 2011, (accessed June 17, 2014).

[11] Ann Byers, Reid Hoffman and LinkedIn (New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 2013), 27.

[12] danah m. boyd and Nicole B. Ellison, “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship,” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13.1 (2007): 210–230, here 214.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Sam Plymale, “A Forefather of Social Media: Andrew Weinreich and SixDegrees.com,” May 26, 2012 (accessed May 24, 2014).

[15] Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, “LinkedIn (A),” Harvard Business School Case 707-406,

July 2006 (revised February 2007), 8.

[16] boyd/Ellison, 214.

[17] Michael Fitzgerald, “Internetworking,” MIT Technology Review, April 1, 2004 (accessed May 24, 2014).

[18] Cf. http://ryze.com/signup.php (accessed February 1, 2014).

[19] Ryze claims to have over five hundred thousand members in two hundred countries. Cf. http://ryze.com/faq.php (accessed February 1, 2014).

[20] Gary Rivlin, “Wallflower at the Web Party,” The New York Times, October 15, 2006 (accessed February 1, 2014).

[21] Emilio J. Castilla, Hokyu Hwang, Ellen Granovetter, and Mark Granovetter, “Social Networks in Silicon Valley,” in: The Silicon Valley Edge: A Habitat for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, ed. Chong-Mong Lee et al. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), 218–247.

[22]LinkedIn company information (accessed February 1, 2014).

[23] Piskorski, 3.

[24] Thomas R. Eisenmann, “Monster Networking,” Harvard Business School Teaching Note 807-138, June 2007 (revised September 2007), 3.

[25] Piskorski, 2.

[26] Eisenmann, 5.

[27] Svetlana Lesidrenska and Philipp Dicke, “Social-media platforms and its effect on digital marketing activities,” paper, Marketing and Management of Innovations 3.1 (2012), (accessed June 12, 2014).

[28] Interview “How LinkedIn Broke Through,” Bloomberg Businessweek, April 9, 2006 (accessed February 3, 2014).

[29] Ibid.

[30] LinkedIn press note, “Sequoia Capital ‘Links In’ with $4.7 Million Investment,” November 12, 2003 (accessed February 7, 2014).

[31] Piskorski, 1.

[32] LinkedIn press note, “LinkedIn Launches Relationship-Powered Job Network,” March 1, 2005, (accessed May 26, 2014).

[33] Ibid.

[34]LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock,” (accessed May 26, 2014).

[35] Piskorski, 1.

[36] LinkedIn press note, “LinkedIn Launches Premium Service for Recruiters and Researchers,” August 8, 2005 (accessed May 26, 2014).

[37] Jeanne G. Harris and Iris Junglas, “Decoding the Contradictory Nature of Silicon Valley” (June 2013) 7, (accessed February 7, 2014).

[38] Tricia Duryee, “Mobile-Social Network Jaxtr Raises $10 Million: Follows Ad-Supported Service With Pay Model,” The Washington Post, June 24, 2008 (accessed February 7, 2014).

[39] Ibid.

[40] Harris/Junglas, 11.

[41] Kia Kokalitcheva, “LinkedIn cofounder joins Earlybird Venture Capital to find next European startup star,” VentureBeat, April 2, 2014 (accessed June 24, 2014).

[42] Saxenian, Argonauts, 101.

[43] Earlybird press note, “Earlybird has a new venture partner in the Linkedin co-founder,” May 16, 2012 (accessed April, 2013).

[44] Marguerite Imbert, Interview with LinkedIn co-founder and Earlybird’s newest partner, Venture Village, May 16, 2012 (accessed February 15, 2014).

[45] Ibid.

[46] Jeanne G. Harris and Allan E. Alter, “California Dreaming,” Outlook (1/2014), 2 (accessed February 7, 2014).

[47] Konstantin Guericke, interview by I. Brandt, September 30, 2013.

[48]European entrepreneurs: Les misérables,” The Economist, July 28, 2012 (accessed June 17, 2014).

[49] AnnaLee Saxenian with Yasuyuki Motoyama and Xiaohong Quan, Local and Global Networks of Immigrant Professionals in Silicon Valley (San Francisco: Public Policy Institute of California, 2002) 9 (accessed June 17, 2014).

[50] Britta Weddeling, “Deutsche Stars im Silicon Valley,“ Focus, November 29, 2013 (accessed June 17, 2014).

[51] “European entrepreneurs: Les misérables.”

[52] Cf. http://startx.stanford.edu/mentors (accessed February 20, 2014).

[53] Ellen Lee, “Doximity: LinkedIn co-founder now connects doctors,” SFGate, May 18, 2012 (accessed June 17, 2014).

[54] Stu Woo and Lynn Cowan, “LinkedIn Price at High End,” Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2011 (accessed June 24, 2014).

[55]LinkedIn company information (accessed May 26, 2014).

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Konstantin Guericke
  • Coverage 1967-
  • Author
  • Website Name Immigrant Entrepreneurship
  • URL
  • Access Date April 19, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 22, 2018