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LinkedIn Marketplace - a threat to expert networks?

By Max Friberg @MaxInex2021-02-21 14:39:36.463Z

LinkedIn is reportedly expanding its Profinder service, to start supporting service transactions and payments for services.

This looks like an logical extension of other recent additions, like the option for users to set their profile to "Open for Business", or to showcase services that they are promoting.
LinkedIn's has been monetizing the Profinder service by charging a subscription fee from service providers ($60/month in 2017), while keeping it free to use for customers.

Expanding the platform services may create increased stickiness for both clients and freelancers, and increasing LinkedIn's take rate.

LinkedIn Marketplaces competes with UpWork, Freelancer .com and Fiverr.

The services offered on LinkedIn Marketplaces are similar to those on other large freelancing sites: pieces of design, copywriting, research or coding that may be provided by a sizeable subset of the population of freelancers.

Where is LinkedIn Marketplaces headed?

LinkedIn Marketplaces are still early-stage, and will likely continue to focus on ad-hoc services. I collected a few clues below, on where LinkedIn might want to take this service, and the team leading it:

In 2019, LinkedIn acquired UpCounsel, a digital platform to connect knowledge-seekers with legal advisors. The CEO went on to lead the engineering team at LinkedIn Service Marketplaces:

In the words of the other UpCounsel co-founder:

Building the vertical marketplace model honed by the UpCounsel team into LinkedIn’s platform and social graph, and then replicating it across 100 different industries opens up limitless potential to empower service providers around the globe. Of course, one of the verticals we will be developing and broadening is Legal.

Earlier this month, the team expanded further:

From a related job ad:

[...] a team of PMs focused on helping match Small Businesses with clients (Services Marketplace), and helping professionals connect with each other to give and get help (Knowledge Marketplace). This team will also be responsible for building a unified platform that can be leveraged by any future Marketplace as well as for identifying new use cases and target audiences for this platform.

Will LinkedIn Marketplaces compete with expert networks?

Eventually it may seek to do so, but I believe it would take ages, if at all.
This is for the same reason that other freelance platforms, and even expert network DIY Marketplaces do not pose a competitive threat to regular expert networks.
The value-added services provided by expert networks are too distinct and specialized, to be replaced by DIY services, or automation - at least for the foreseeable future.
As I see it, these services are mainly:

  1. Identifying experts most relevant to a client request
  2. Vetting experts to make sure they have the knowledge they claim to have
  3. Ensuring compliance by explaining and signing all relevant T&Cs with experts
  4. Ensuring confidentiality when recruiting experts, by being a separate entity from the knowledge-seeking client
  5. Administering logistics of scheduling calls (knowledge exchange) and payments (monetary exchange).

I believe that an expert network's ability to consistently excel at these five core services correlates with its value-add to clients, and overall market potential.
LinkedIn Marketplaces might facilitate parts of these services, but most likely not to the degree required by expert network clients.

Thoughts/ comments? Fire away! :)

  • 1 replies
  1. J
    James Andersson @jamesandersson2021-03-09 13:26:26.169Z

    Thanks Max,

    This is a very interesting read. I'm also quite skeptical about LinkedIn stealing a significant market share from the expert networks. Vetting and compliance seem to be the two most important factors: GLG and others have very good processes established in these areas and you can't really automate them properly.

    Also, if I get it correctly, the experts who now typically consult through expert networks would have to invest time into setting up shop on LinkedIn Profinder and even pay a fee.. I would find that too cumbersome as an expert - the model where the expert networks come to you straight away is much more appealing for busy people.

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