Smart Talk: Eric Ly, Co-Founder of LinkedIn

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Eric Ly is CEO of Presdo Match and Co-Founder of LinkedIn

Hometown: Sunnyvale, California

Education: B.S., Stanford University; M.S., MIT Media Lab

Career: Began as a software engineer at numerous tech companies, including IBM and Sun; Co-founder of companies such as Netmosphere and LinkedIn.

About Presdo Match: The event app platform supercharges relationship building before and during face-to-face meetings and events. It delivers dramatic increases in ROI for event organizers and provides business professionals with deep justification for attending events. Presdo leverages the world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn, to instantly flesh out attendee profiles and provide the setting for the most productive and efficient networking possible.


What did you learn from the co-founding of LinkedIn that prepared you for launching Presdo Match?

We learned a thousand things about successfully facilitating professional relationships using technology at LinkedIn. While business professionals are naturally predisposed to networking—and it’s especially true for those who attend events—we discovered that many professionals weren’t actually accustomed to networking. We realized that we could put tools in place to help users network without calling it that, and turn them into more effective networkers. That made us realize we could make tools to facilitate relationships in other scenarios, such as events. LinkedIn still doesn’t do a good job with networking at events, and we’ve been leveraging many of the successful ideas and adding new ones to make events more valuable.

Of all the things you accomplished at LinkedIn, what are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the occasions when I’ve gone to events, and people would come up to me and share their experience about how they, a friend or a relative benefited from finding a valuable job through LinkedIn. To know that something I helped create made a real difference in people’s lives, especially as the economy was recovering from the last economic downturn, was truly rewarding.

It seems one key attribute about Presdo Match is it provides the ability to network. Were you high on networking before LinkedIn?

I’ve long believed that technology fundamentally serves as communication tools for people. You can see so many successful examples of this throughout the history of technology going way back, from telephones and TVs to smartphones and messaging apps, and now VR and AR. I caught the “networking” bug at LinkedIn, but networking is just a form of facilitating communication between people with some—or a lot of—window dressing. People are inherently social creatures, and we are always looking for better ways to find and communicate with each other.

How is Presdo Match different than other event apps?

Even though the product serves effectively as a digital event guide, the focus on relationship building is the key difference of the Presdo Match app. And why should event organizers care? Leading companies such as Salesforce have gotten 10 times the event ROI by emphasizing networking at their events. It has been shown that events are dramatically more effective at converting customers and creating higher engagement when they facilitate networking and relationships than ones that don’t. When CMOs are interested in boosting ROI from events, it’s done through “advocate” marketing among attendees rather than additional investment in event content. Because of this, the future of event apps will primarily address relationship building among all event stakeholders more than anything else.

Is there one event that used your app that you were particularly jazzed about and why?

One example is the trade shows with a company called Access Intelligence, which we have worked with for several years. We have been particularly delighted that our app has brought more people to the shows and more than offset the cost of our product. We delight when organizers tell us how they were able to effectively get attendees engaged at their event and how their engagement metrics go up year after year. We also are delighted when attendees tell us how business relationships were made or accelerated as a result of our technology.

How did you become interested in event app development?

When people attend events, they are away from their desk and rely on smartphones for information and communication, so mobile technology and apps are a natural fit with events. We realized that to successfully create technology for events and attendees, it was a no-brainer to conceive of products as mobile experiences from the start.

Silicon Valley and the entire San Francisco Bay Area are key destinations for creative technology development. Where do you hope to leave your mark?

As Steve Jobs once said, we live in an age where creative people express their creativity by creating new solutions with technology. Technology offers abundant opportunities to solve many different problems. I want to make a difference in people’s lives by attacking big problems and [providing] opportunities. Since I have an engineer’s heart, I’d like to package them in forms that surprise and delight them at the same time.

Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?

Presdo is always working on new, exciting things. Stay tuned. As I’ve traveled and talked to people about their use of social networking technologies around the country, I’ve come to realize that Silicon Valley is often in its own bubble because we are still only at the beginning of leveraging social networking technologies. There are still rich opportunities to make things more relevant and valuable to professionals, especially for events and business scenarios.

Do you ever leave home without your phone? Are you always connected?

Never, and always. If there is an emergency with family or company, it’s a relief knowing that I can be reached. I’d like to be only notified in emergencies, though, because time away from being always connected to focus on the big picture is valuable.